Most women experience some unpleasant symptoms around then time of the menopause and, for some, the experience can be both distressing and disabling. Hot flushes and night sweats are the most common problems at this time of life but sleep disturbance, irritability, inability to concentrate, vaginal dryness and urinary problems can all occur.
During the 1980s and 1990s, oestrogen – or hormone – replacement therapy (HRT) was widely promoted – and prescribed – as a panacea for the menopause. Women, and doctors, were advised that this not only relieved women of their disturbing symptoms but was also good for them in numerous other ways including preventing heart disease, osteoporosis (thinning of the bones) and dementia. This was all accompanied by aggressive marketing campaigns by the pharmaceutical companies who could see a windfall coming their way. We are now older and wiser. We now know that the use of HRT, especially for long periods, increases the risk of breast cancer, cancer of the ovaries, heart disease and blood clots (thromboses).
Women now often look to complementary therapies as an alternative to HRT.
Research shows that acupuncture does have an effect on menopausal hot flushes, giving women significant relief. However, how it does this is uncertain. Proponents of traditional Chinese medicine argue that these beneficial effects arise form rebalancing the energy as it flows through the body’s meridians. However, modern scientific research suggests that it may influence the temperature regulating centre in the brain by its effect on neuro-chemicals in the brain.
My clinical impression is that some women are greatly helped by acupuncture treatment based on traditional Chinese principles.
Treatment for menopausal symptoms is usually given for several months, initially weekly and later less frequently.