Study suggests acupuncture does not help hot flashes

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Previous studies indicate meditation and mindfulness training can help women cope with hot flashes, but a new study suggests acupuncture may not help.

Most women who go through menopause experience hot flashes, but the intensity and frequency can range from mild to severe.

While the science behind what causes a hot flash isn't well understood, about 75 percent of women in perimenopause experience symptoms.

Dr. Stephen Rabin with Advanced Gynecology Solutions treats women with hot flashes regularly, but said more than 50 percent of women try complementary therapies like acupuncture.

A new study involving more than 300 women looked at how the ancient treatment affected women with hot flashes and 40 percent reported improvement.

In the study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, half the women were given a placebo acupuncture, meaning the needles didn't penetrate their skin, the women just thought it did.

Those women also experienced a 40 percent improvement in their hot flashes.

In other words, the data shows results from acupuncture were no better than the placebo. But Rabin said it may actually have its benefits.

"I think that it's wrong to call this a placebo effect," Rabin said. "There is something that happens when you enter a therapeutic relationship and maybe it's the caring effect."

Rabin said he sees women benefit from the face-to-face caring interaction offered in alternative therapies. Previous studies also show meditation and mindfulness training help women cope with hot flashes.

"To take that away and say that it's worthless when it works in almost half of the patients, 40 percent is a significant number," Rabin said.

But when it comes to overall treatment for menopause, Rabin still believes women should ask their doctor about tradition hormone therapy or bio identical hormone therapy and discuss the risks.

"It really does change the physiology of the aging process to keep some level of hormones going on," Rabin said.
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