There is insufficient evidence to support the use of acupuncture for menopausal hot flashes, according to a review.
Acupuncture has been studied for possible benefit in relieving symptoms of menopause. The practice of acupuncture originated in China 5,000 years ago. Today it is widely used throughout the world and is one of the main pillars of Chinese medicine. There are many different varieties of the practice of acupuncture, both in the Orient and in the West. Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) usually combines acupuncture with Chinese herbs. Classical acupuncture (also known as five element acupuncture) uses a different needling technique and relies on acupuncture independent of the use of herbs. Japanese acupuncture uses smaller needles than the other varieties. Medical acupuncture refers to acupuncture practiced by a conventional medical doctor. Auricular acupuncture treats the entire body through acupuncture points in the ears only. Electroacupuncture uses electrical currents attached to acupuncture needles.
In the current review, the authors collected information from studies that looked at the safety and effectiveness of acupuncture for reducing hot flashes and improving quality of life in menopausal women. The trials compared acupuncture to no treatment or to other treatments, including hormone therapy, for the treatment of menopausal symptoms.
The authors included 16 studies conducted in 1,155 women. Half of these studies compared acupuncture to sham acupuncture, and found a lack of significant difference between the two therapies for hot flash frequency. However, hot flashes were significantly less severe in women who had received acupuncture, compared to those who underwent sham acupuncture. Three other studies included in the review compared acupuncture to hormone therapy, reporting that acupuncture was linked to significantly more hot flashes than hormone therapy, with no significant difference between the therapies for hot flash severity. One study compared electroacupuncture with relaxation and found a lack of significant different on hot flash frequency or severity. The remaining studies compared acupuncture to no treatment and found that traditional acupuncture appeared to be effective in reducing hot flash frequency and severity compared to baseline. In terms of quality of life, acupuncture appeared to be significantly less effective than hormone therapy, but more effective than no treatment.
The authors concluded that there is insufficient evidence at this time to determine if acupuncture is effective for symptoms of menopause. However, they emphasized that these findings should be treated with caution due to the poor quality of the evidence, as well as the fact that the studies comparing acupuncture to no treatment or to hormone therapy were not controlled with sham acupuncture or placebo hormone therapy. More information is needed before these results can be confirmed.
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