Acupuncture treatments can reduce the number of hot
flashes and night sweats associated with menopause by as much as 36 percent,
according to researchers at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. The findings
are published in the June issue of the journal Menopause.
“Although acupuncture does not work for every woman, our
study showed that, on average, acupuncture effectively reduced the frequency of
hot flashes and results were maintained for six months after the treatments
stopped,” said Nancy Avis, Ph.D., professor of public health sciences at Wake
Forest Baptist and lead author of the study.
The study, which was funded by National Institutes of
Health, included 209 women ages 45
to 60 who had not had a menstrual period for at least three months and had on
average at least four hot flashes or night sweats per day in the previous two
weeks. Participants received a baseline assessment and were then randomized to
one of two groups.
The first group received acupuncture
treatments during the first six months. They were then followed without
receiving acupuncture for the second six months. The second group did not
receive any acupuncture during the first six months, but did receive acupuncture
for the second six months.
The participants were
allowed up to 20 treatments within six months provided by licensed, experienced
acupuncturists in the community. All participants kept a daily diary on the
frequency and severity of their hot flashes. They also answered questionnaires
about other symptoms every two months.
Avis said the study was
designed to make it more “real world” by leaving the frequency and number of
the acupuncture treatments up to the study participants and their
acupuncturists. After six months, the first group reported an average 36.7
percent decline in frequency of hot flashes compared to baseline measurements. After
a year, the benefits persisted, with the group members maintaining an average 29.4
percent reduction from baseline.
The second group reported
a 6 percent increase in symptom frequency during the six months when they were
not getting acupuncture, but had similar results – an average 31 percent
reduction in frequency – to the first group after receiving acupuncture during
the latter part of the trial.
“There are a number of non-hormonal options for treating
hot flashes and night sweats that are available to women,” Avis said. “None of
these options seem to work for everyone, but our study showed that acupuncture
from a licensed acupuncturist can help some women without any side effects. Our
study also showed that the maximum benefit occurred after about eight
Avis cautioned that the effect shown in the study could
be due to non-specific effects such as the additional care and attention the
study participants received or the expectation of a benefit. She also said that
additional research is needed to identify individual differences in response to
Funding for the study was provided by grant RO1AT005854
from the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.
Remy R. Coeytaux, M.D., Ph.D., of Duke University School of Medicine; Scott
Isom, M.S., Kristen Prevette, B.A., and Timothy Morgan, Ph.D., of Wake Forest
Baptist. Coeytaux has a financial interest in two organizations involved in
recruiting study participants and administering acupuncture treatments at one
of the two study sites.