Alternative Medicine

Acupuncture: Alternative to Hormone Replacement Therapy

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Acupuncture has been used to treat menopausal symptoms but a new study published in "Acupuncture In Medicine" presents data that the practice may be an alternative treatment to manage menopausal symptoms, including hot flushes, for women who will not or cannot take more traditional hormone replacement therapies (HRT).

The study design was randomized and single-blind with a sham control. This means that study participants were randomly placed in one of two groups: one group received acupuncture two times weekly for 5 weeks while the other group received a sham procedure in which needles were not inserted into the skin but the action was mimicked using specially designed sham needles at the same acupuncture points.

53 postmenopausal women participated in the study. The primary outcome was an improvement in the Menopausal Rataing Scale (MRS) with secondary outcomes of leutenizing hormone (LH), follicle stimulating hormones (FSH), and estradiol (E2) levels. MRS scores and hormone levels were measured at baseline, after the first treatment, and after the last treatment.

Both groups had similar characteristics at baseline except for some random variations in MRS scores, specifically the vasomotor portion of the scale, as well as LH and FSH levels.

The researchers found a statistically significant decrease in the MRS score for women who received active treatment versus sham acupuncture. Most importantly, hot flush scores were dramatically decreased in the active treatment group. In the same group, LH was found to be lower and E2 was found to be significantly higher but there was no change in FSH levels.

Although there were changes in LH and E2 levels, the researchers felt that the changes were not significant enough from baseline especially with the presence of baseline differences between the groups to explain the MRS score improvement and decrease in hot flushes. They did observe, however that the changes were cumulative; the magnitude of the changes in the outcomes was larger after the last treatments as compared to the first treatments, whether real or sham.

The authors concluded that acupuncture treatment is an alternative for women who desire to manage menopausal symptoms and who do not want or cannot use traditional HRT therapies. The mechanism of this effect remains to be elucidated.

You can read this study in its entirety at: http://press.psprings.co.uk/AiM/march/AiM3285.pdf.