Acupuncture and The Menopause
The menopause is the medical term for the time, usually between the ages of 45 and 55, when a woman’s periods end. This happens as a result of a decrease in frequency, and eventual ceasing, of ovulation, and a consequent drop in oestrogen levels. The menopause is therefore characterized by hormonal changes which can trigger some of the following symptoms:
- Hot flushes
- Vaginal symptoms e.g. dryness
- Joint pain
The majority of women in the developed world will experience some of these symptoms, and for one in five they will be marked, with a significant impact on health and well-being.
Another consequence of the hormonal changes can be osteoporosis: the lower levels of oestrogen can lead to bone loss and a consequent risk of fractures.
Menopause and TCM
In TCM, the reproductive system and the bones are both associated with a concentrated form of Qi which is known as Jing or ‘vital essence’. Jing is partly inherited from our parents, and is gradually used up over our life. If we live a healthy and balanced life, we do not consume our Jing too quickly; if, on the other hand, we live a life in which we fail to nourish ourselves properly and push ourselves to work (and play) beyond our natural limits, we use up our Jing too quickly. This may explain why women in the developed world seem to suffer much more from menopausal syndrome than their sisters in the undeveloped world – they are using up their Jing too quickly in the pressured and unbalanced lifestyles which are considered normal in consumer societies.
Chinese Medicine cannot, of course, stop the ageing process, but it can support a woman to go through the transition which is the menopause in a natural and harmonious way. As Jing declines, a woman’s systems temporarily become out of balance. Treatments such as acupuncture, herbal remedies and Chi Kung can help to restore that balance, making the transition smoother and less disruptive.
Beyond this, Chinese Medicine is a holistic treatment which works on the level of the Spirit as well as of the body; it is particularly effective in supporting us through periods of transition in our life when, for example, our role in our family and in society is changing as our body changes.
Is Acupuncture Helpful in the treatment of Menopause?
Significant evidence has been accumulated in China over the years which suggests that appropriate acupuncture treatment during the menopause increases oestrogen levels, which may account for its success in treating menopausal symptoms. Similarly, Chinese trials suggest such treatment promotes bone function and decreases the loss of bone mass, thus combating osteoporosis.
Several smaller scale trials in the West, for example 1Cohen et al (2003) also suggest the effectiveness of acupuncture in treating menopause.
A Danish study 2Lund KS, et al (2019) concluded: The standardised and brief acupuncture treatment produced a fast and clinically relevant reduction in moderate-to-severe menopausal symptoms during the six-week intervention. No severe adverse effects were reported.
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1 Cohen et al (2003) Can acupuncture ease the symptoms of menopause Holist Nurs Pract. 2003 Nov-Dec;17(6):295-9.
2 Lund KS, Siersma V, Brodersen J, et al. Efficacy of a standardised acupuncture approach for women with bothersome menopausal symptoms: a pragmatic randomised study in primary care (the ACOM study). BMJ Open 2019;9:e023637. doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2018-023637
The Sean Barkes Clinic does not claim to cure any conventional medical disease states. Traditional Chinese Medicine seeks to re-establish and maintain the harmonious function of the human body-mind using tried and tested principles that have been discovered and matured over millennia. A Western medical diagnosis provides very little by way of insight in informing a Chinese Medical diagnosis. Patients usually recognise their own condition in terms of the medical disease category that they have been given by their GP or other conventional medical practitioner. The research presented here is merely an indication of the potential to draw parallels between Traditional Chinese Medicine and Modern Western Medicine.