Latest Study Reinforces Link Between Acupuncture and Relief from Hot Flashes

In the 2,500+ years that have passed since acupuncture was first used by the ancient Chinese, it has been used to treat a number of physical, mental and emotional conditions including nausea and vomiting, stroke rehabilitation, headaches, menstrual cramps, asthma, carpal tunnel, fibromyalgia and osteoarthritis, to name just a few. Now, a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials which is being published this month in Menopause, the journal of The North American Menopause Society (NAMS), indicates that acupuncture can affect the severity and frequency of hot flashes for women in natural menopause.

An extensive search of previous studies evaluating the effectiveness of acupuncture uncovered 104 relevant students, of which 12 studies with 869 participants met the specified inclusion criteria to be included in this current study. While the studies provided inconsistent findings on the effects of acupuncture on other menopause-related symptoms such as sleep problems, mood disturbances and sexual problems, they did conclude that acupuncture positively impacted both the frequency and severity of hot flashes.

Women experiencing natural menopause and aged between 40 and 60 years were included in the analysis, which evaluated the effects of various forms of acupuncture, including traditional Chinese medicine acupuncture (TCMA), acupressure, electroacupuncture, laser acupuncture and ear acupuncture.

Interestingly, neither the effect on hot flash frequency or severity appeared to be linked to the number of treatment doses, number of sessions or duration of treatment. However, the findings showed that sham acupuncture could induce a treatment effect comparable with that of true acupuncture for the reduction of hot flash frequency. The effects on hot flashes were shown to be maintained for as long as three months.

Although the study stopped short of explaining the exact mechanism underlying the effects of acupuncture on hot flashes, a theory was proposed to suggest that acupuncture caused a reduction in the concentration of β-endorphin in the hypothalamus, resulting from low concentrations of estrogen. These lower levels could trigger the release of CGRP, which affects thermoregulation.

“More than anything, this review indicates that there is still much to be learned relative to the causes and treatments of menopausal hot flashes,” says NAMS executive director Margery Gass, MD. “The review suggests that acupuncture may be an effective alternative for reducing hot flashes, especially for those women seeking non- pharmacologic therapies.”

A recent review indicated that approximately half of women experiencing menopause-associated symptoms use complementary and alternative medicine therapy, instead of pharmacologic therapies, for managing their menopausal symptoms.

 

Source:  http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140714122812.htm

 

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Acupuncture: It’s as Good as Drugs for Treating Pain

Critics of the ancient Chinese therapy say it is no better than a placebo. But a new study using brain-mapping shows it has a similar effect to standard Western medicines.

Skeptics have long claimed that acupuncture is all in the mind. But a ground-breaking new study has found that the ancient Chinese practice is as effective as popular painkillers for treating disabling conditions such as arthritis.

A team of scientists from two British universities made the findings after they carried out brain scans on patients while they underwent the 2,500-year-old treatment. The scans showed differences in the brain’s response to acupuncture needles when compared with tests using “dummy needles” that did not puncture the skin.

Doctors found that the part of the brain that manages pain and the nervous system responded to acupuncture needles and improved pain relief by as much as 15 per cent.

Dr George Lewith, from the University of Southampton’s Complementary Medicine Research Unit, said the improvement might seem modest, “but it’s exactly the same size of effect you would get from real Prozac versus a placebo or real painkillers for chronic pain. “The evidence we now have is that acupuncture works very well on pain,” he said.

The findings, which will be published today in the scientific journal NeuroImage, have been welcomed by acupuncturists, who have long faced skepticism from scientists that the benefits are derived from the placebo effect. Although some clinical trials have shown an improvement in pain relief, the practice remains controversial. Other trials, for instance, have found little difference between acupuncture treatments and placebos.

Persis Tamboly, of the British Acupuncture Council, said: “We’re really thrilled about this research. There will be critics of this subject until our dying days, but research like this substantiates what we’ve always maintained – that acupuncture works.”

The council hopes the findings will help to make acupuncture become accepted as a National Health Service treatment. Despite its controversial status, more than two million acupuncture treatments are performed each year. Its supporters include Cherie Blair, Kate Winslet and Joan Collins.

The 14 patients who participated in the study were put through three tests in random order, while “brain maps” were created using sophisticated positron emission tomography, or PET, scans at University College London. In one test, researchers used blunt needles that pricked the skin, but which the brain registered as the sensation of touch. Dummy needles, where the tip was pushed back once it touched the skin, were then used, and in the third test the patients underwent acupuncture treatment with real needles.

The acupuncture needles had two measurable effects on the patients’ brains: as with the dummy needles, the brain released natural opiates in response to the expected effect of the needles. But the scans showed that the real needles had an extra effect and stimulated another part of the brain called the ipsilateral insular. This improved pain relief by 10-15 per cent – similar to the effect of taking conventional analgesic drugs.

The study, though, does not explain how acupuncture treats other problems such as stress or disease.

DR Lewith said: “Further research is definitely planned. This is a very interesting area. I have been involved in acupuncture research for 25 years, and I’m now getting a very realistic understanding of the effects of this mechanism,” he said.

At the sharp end

* Developed in China about 2,500 years ago, using stone needles at first and later bronze, gold and silver. The first medical reference was in The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine, written around 300BC.

* There are about 500 acupuncture points on the body, which can affect the body’s “chi” or energy. A headache can be treated with needles inserted in the hand or foot.

* Fine needles are inserted into “energy channels” in the body called “meridians”. Needles help natural healing processes or relieve pain.

* Other techniques include the use of massage, smoldering herbs, and tapping with a rounded probe, as well as lasers and electro-acupuncture

Source: Carrell, Severin, At Last The Truth About Acupuncture: It’s As Good As Drugs For Treating Pain. © Copyright 2005 Independent Digital (UK) Ltd