Researchers found seven weeks of acupuncture treatment reduced the severity of nighttime hot flashes by 28 percent among menopausal women compared with a 6 percent decrease among women who had a sham acupuncture treatment.
Hot flashes are a common symptom of menopause and often occur at night, which can significantly disrupt sleep and affect a woman's quality of life. Until recently, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) was the most popular treatment for hot flashes. But in the wake of studies that suggested HRT use could increase a woman's risk of heart disease or cancer, alternative therapies for hot flashes have received renewed interest.
Researchers compared the effects of acupuncture vs. a sham acupuncture treatment on the severity and frequency of nighttime hot flashes. Taking part in the study were 29 menopausal women experiencing at least seven moderate to severe hot flashes per day.
All of the women underwent nine treatments from trained acupuncturists in sessions over seven weeks. Twelve of the women received real acupuncture using points selected to target hot flashes and sleepiness. The rest of the women received a sham acupuncture treatment using non-penetrating needles at random acupuncture channel points.
Throughout the study, the women reported the number and severity of their hot flashes.
The results showed that nighttime hot flash severity decreased significantly (28 percent) among the women who received acupuncture vs. a 6 percent drop among the women who got the sham treatment. However, they did not see a similar finding in the frequency of nighttime hot flashes between the two groups.
Researcher Mary Huang, M.S., of Stanford University, and colleagues say the results suggest acupuncture deserves further study as an alternative treatment for menopausal hot flashes.
The findings are published in the September issue of Fertility and Sterility.
SOURCES: Huang, M. Fertility and Sterility, September 2006; Vol. 86: pp. 700-710. News release, American Society of Reproductive Medicine.
By Jennifer Warner
Reviewed by Louise Chang