ASRM news – Menopausal women in a prospective, randomized placebo-controlled study found that acupuncture treatments reduced the severity of their nocturnal hot flashes and, as a result, they slept better.
This preliminary study by researchers at Stanford and Harvard enrolled 29 Northern California women between the ages of 45 and 65 who had had no menstrual periods during the six months prior to the study. Women with serious medical or psychological conditions or who were currently receiving treatment for hot flashes were excluded.
The women were randomized into an active treatment group and a control group. Both underwent a seven week course of sessions. The active treatment group received real acupuncture using points selected to target hot flashes as the primary symptom, and sleeplessness as a secondary symptom. The control group received sham acupuncture using placebo (non-penetrating) needles at acupuncture channel points selected at random. Trained acupuncturists worked with both active treatment and control groups. All needle insertions, real and placebo, were masked so that participants would not be able to tell whether they were receiving real or sham acupuncture.
Participants called or e-mailed daily to report the number and severity of their hot flashes. After the ninth and final study treatment, they were given one additional treatment and told whether they had been in the active treatment or sham acupuncture group. The women were asked to continue their daily hot flash reports for another month and were free to seek the treatment of their choice for their menopausal symptoms.
Nocturnal hot flash severity decreased significantly for the women receiving active acupuncture compared with the placebo group and both the active acupuncture and the placebo groups found that their nocturnal hot flashes became less frequent. In addition, researchers found a significant correlation between reductions in sleep disturbances and reductions in nocturnal hot flashes.
“Complementary medicine, especially acupuncture, has shown great potential to relieve many types of debilitating symptoms,” remarked Steven Ory, MD, ASRM President-Elect. “For patients suffering from menopausal symptoms, who are not good candidates for hormone therapy, acupuncture treatment could be an excellent option.”
[Fertility and Sterility, Vol. 86, No.3, September 2006. Huang et al, A randomized controlled pilot study of acupuncture for postmenopausal hot flashes: effect on nocturnal hot flashes and sleep quality]