Acupuncture might be a helpful alternative to hormones for alleviating symptoms of menopause, a Danish study suggested.
In a small, randomized study, women with moderate-to-severe menopausal symptoms who received 5 weeks of acupuncture reported a reduction in several symptoms by week 6, Kamma Sundgaard Lund, MD, of the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, and colleagues, wrote in BMJ Open.
Compared with the control group, women who had acupuncture self-reported significant reductions in how bothersome symptoms were from baseline across the following menopause-related symptoms:
- Hot flushes: -1.6 (95% CI -2.3 to -0.8)
- Day-and-night sweats: -1.2 (95% CI -2.0 to -0.4)
- General sweating: -0.9 (95% CI -1.6 to -0.2)
- Menopausal-specific sleeping problems: -1.8 (95% CI -2.7 to -1.0)
- Physical symptoms: -1.7 (95% CI -3.0 to -0.4)
- Skin and hair symptoms: -1.5 (95% CI -2.5 to -0.6)
These benefits weren’t isolated to physical symptoms of menopause either — the biggest change from baseline tied to acupuncture use was reported in emotional symptoms (-3.4, 95% CI -5.3 to -1.4).
The analysis included 70 women from nine primary care centers in Denmark, who experienced moderate-to-severe hot flushes, defined on a score of 4 or higher on the MenoScores Questionnaire. Half of these women were randomized to receive a western medical style of acupuncture placed in points CV-3, CV-4, LR-8, SP-9, and SP-6 — three of which were placed bilaterally for a total of eight needles — for 10 minutes at a time.
The control group received no treatment, as the researchers explained: “no sufficient acupuncture placebo comparator exists, which is a major limitation in acupuncture studies.” Another limitation to the analysis, the authors pointed out, was the inability to blind the intervention group to the acupuncture.
Only four women receiving acupuncture reported mild adverse effects, including finding the needling unpleasant, although no serious adverse events were reported.
Lund’s group suggested these findings are particularly good news for women suffering from menopausal symptoms who “cannot or do not wish to use [hormone therapy].”
However, the team also said, “women seeking acupuncture treatment for menopausal symptoms should be informed of the current evidence, and its limitations, so they can integrate this with personal preferences and values in their decision making.”
The North American Menopause Society has recognized acupuncture’s benefit for reducing hot flashes as well as improving sleep patterns in postmenopausal women, although the clinical care recommendations state that “clinical trials demonstrate benefit generally similar to that of sham acupuncture.”
The study was funded by the Idella Foundation, the University of Copenhagen, and the Research Foundation of General Practice including the Foundation of Multipractice Studies.
Lund and co-authors reported no conflicts of interest.