Unfortunately menopause has gained popularity in the media as a dreaded sign of advancing age where women’s days are filled with barely tolerable symptoms ranging from mood swings to hot flashes. The discomfort can cause many women to forget that we are a magnificent and adaptive species, constantly changing in relation to our body’s age, environment and evolutionary purpose. The years of menopause and before, age 40-55 for many, are the years when women are making their mark in multiple aspects of their lives. Self confidence is higher, many see advanced achievements professionally and women generally feel more creative and hungry for a productive life. The physical side effects of menopause absolutely should not get in the way of this powerful shift forward in living a meaningful life.
Most of us are familiar with the pros and cons of Hormone Replacement Therapy. While they can supplement hormones and alleviate some symptoms, HRT may also increase the risk of estrogen type cancers such as breast and ovarian. Natural and safe alternatives to HRT have been more popular recently and Traditional Chinese Medicine has much to contribute. Acupuncture and herbal formulas along with dietary and lifestyle modifications has been documented to alleviate the symptoms of menopause for thousands of years.
How Does Chinese Medicine Help the Symptoms of Menopause?
The biggest difference between the western and eastern approaches to menopause is that in Chinese medicine we do not have one governing diagnosis of ‘menopause’. It does not exist as a disease category. Instead we view it as a hormonal shift and treat the woman according to her symptoms separately. This allows the acupuncturist to treat a woman very specifically for her particular pattern of symptoms. If 5 women complain of insomnia and hot flashes, it is possible that there may be 5 different treatments given because each symptom is considered in the context of the woman’s overall health and also because insomnia and hot flashes are names, not descriptions of what they’re experiencing. Insomnia for one person may mean that she just cannot fall asleep but to someone else it may mean that she falls asleep easily but wakes frequently and tosses and turns all night. Likewise the term hot flashes to one person may mean a surge of heat but to another it may be a surge of heat to the palms and soles of the feet accompanied with sweating. These subtle nuances are extremely important in the diagnosis and subsequent treatment strategies we employ with acupuncture and herbs.
Once you have discussed in detail your symptoms, your acupuncturist will create a treatment plan for you. Usually both acupuncture and herbal medicine will be used but in what frequency and length will be determined by your response to the treatment. Some women respond quickly to just a month of treatment and some need to continue coming for several months. Our goal is to give you great care in the most efficient manner we can so that you may resume your normal activities inspired by how good you feel.
Is There Evidence of Chinese Medicine Alleviating Menopause Symptoms?
Substantial research indicates that acupuncture is successful at relieving many symptoms such as hot flashes, mood swings and insomnia. The World Health Organization has approved acupuncture as a safe treatment for menopause and is helping to fund clinical trials of larger sample sizes currently. Dr. Susan Cohen, D.S.N., APRN, associate professor of the University of Pittsburgh, found that during the course of acupuncture treatments, hot flashes decreased by 35% and insomnia decreased by 50% in menopausal women. This and other studies can be reviewed at www.pubmed.com type in the keywords acupuncture, menopause.