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Acupuncture may be helpful for hot flushes

9 January 2012

While hot flushes continue to be the commonest symptom of the menopause, and can significantly affect quality of life, attempts continue to be made to find an effective, safe treatment and many women have turned to the use of Alternative therapies and techniques. Acupuncture is a commonly used Alternative technique. Research in the past has shown mixed results on the effectiveness of acupuncture but a recent study carried out in Korea has shown a possible beneficial effect on the severity of menopausal hot flushes.

The study was a randomised sham-controlled clinical trial. 54 perimenopausal or postmenopausal women with moderate or severe hot flushes were randomised to receive real or sham acupuncture. The real acupuncture group received 11 acupuncture treatments for 7 weeks, and the control group underwent sham acupuncture on non-acupuncture points during the same period. Both groups were followed for 8 weeks after the end of treatment period. Changes from baseline in the hot flush scores at week 7, measured by multiplying the hot flush frequency and severity, were the primary outcome. Hot flush frequency, severity and menopause-related symptoms measured with the Menopause Rating Scale Questionnaire were also recorded.

27 women were randomised into the real acupuncture group and 27 into the sham acupuncture group. No serious adverse events were observed during the whole study period.

Compared to sham acupuncture, real acupuncture failed to show significantly different effects on the hot flush scores but showed partial benefits on the hot flush severity. Further consideration is needed to be able to distinguish non-specific effects from observed overall effectiveness of acupuncture for hot flushes. It is unclear whether acupuncture has point-specific effects for hot flushes and further research is needed.

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