Typically, as women approach or enter their 50s, they will first navigate perimenopause and then menopause, as the ovaries’ production of oestrogen declines and then stops and the menstrual cycle ceases. This process takes, on average, four years, but can take up to 10.
The significant hormonal upheaval of the menopausal transition is often marked by uncomfortable symptoms of hot flushes, excess sweating, mood swings, sleep disturbances, depression, anxiety, brain fog and weight gain. Whilst some women sail through menopause easily, studies suggest most women find menopause disruptive. A 2018 US study found 84% of women said their symptoms interfere with their lives and 12% found the changes debilitating.
Hormone replacement therapy and other drugs can treat the various symptoms, but they are not without side effects, and the evidence for other non-pharmacological approaches, such as exercise, relaxation, and dietary remedies, isn’t yet very compelling.
Chinese Medicine has been developing treatment strategies for menopause for thousands of years, so it was not surprising that a recently published study of 70 women with moderate to severe menopausal symptoms published in the British Medical Journal showed great results for acupuncture. After three weeks, women in the treatment group were significantly less affected by hot flushes. Additionally, after six weeks, significant improvements were observed in sweating, sleep problems, emotional symptoms, and problems with skin and hair. The findings prompted the researchers from the University of Denmark to conclude that acupuncture offers a realistic treatment option for women who can’t, or don’t want to, use hormone replacement therapy (HRT).
It’s possible to use acupuncture on its own or in conjunction with HRT. Every woman’s circumstances and symptoms are unique, so there is no one size fits all approach. As with any holistic approach, acupuncture addresses the cause of the symptoms which means it’s possible that after a series of acupuncture treatments your body is less, or no longer, reliant on HRT to moderate menopausal symptoms.
Finally, whilst the hormonal transition of menopause can be a bumpy ride, the destination, it seems, is a good one. An American Gallup survey found that women aged 50 to 65 felt the most fulfilled and happiest than at any other stage of their lives. Far from menopause heralding the ‘beginning of the end’, it can be a crossing of the threshold into an even more joyful stage of life.Editor’s note: Our rotating wellbeing and fitness columns provide advice that is general in nature. Please always refer to your preferred health professional for advice suited to your personal healthcare requirements.