Menopause is a natural, physiological transition that marks the cessation of ovulation and menstruation. Apart from periods becoming less regular, about 80% of women also experience hot flashes, night sweats, and other uncomfortable signs of menopause. Conventional medicine tends to offer women some menopause relief through Menopause Hormone Therapy (MHT), but this approach carries risk. Hormone Replacement has been shown to significantly increase the risk of breast cancer, and the danger grows with every year that a woman continues using hormone replacements for menopause. TCM and Acupuncture offer real menopause symptom relief without any of these negative side effects.
The time during which symptoms appear is actually called perimenopause, and it can last anywhere from a few months up to several years. Women generally begin to experience pre-menopausal symptoms in their 40s, but for some women, they can begin as early as their 30s, or not until their 50s. On average, women spend about four years experiencing a gradual change. Menopause is said to have occurred when a woman has gone a full twelve months without a period. During perimenopause, women are confronted with many changes, not only in their menstrual cycles, but in all aspects of their lives: physical, mental, and emotional.
What Are the Symptoms of Menopause?
As a woman moves through the transition of perimenopause, she is likely to experience a host of various symptoms. Some of these are undeniably visceral, such as waking up in the night drenched in sweat, while others might be very subtle–like having trouble remembering names that used to come effortlessly. Each woman’s experience is different, but most women notice at least some of these perimenopausal symptoms.
Top 15 Common Signs of Menopause that Can Be Improved with Acupuncture Treatment
- Irregular menstrual periods
- Hot flashes, hot flushes, night sweats
- Anxiety, depression, irritability
- Trouble sleeping through the night
- Memory problems, difficulty concentrating
- Weight gain, low metabolism, thickening around the middle
- Looser skin, brittle nails
- Vaginal dryness
- Low libido
- Sensations such as: mouth tingling, itchy skin, electric shocks, nerve tingling in hands and feet
- Loss of bone density
- Bladder incontinence
- Joint pain
Current medical science views these symptoms as a hormonal imbalance, and seeks to correct that imbalance. Estrogen levels do indeed begin to fluctuate during perimenopause, rising and falling unpredictably. TCM theory and practice view these changes as being due to changing body chemistry, and also in natural changes that occur in the more subtle energies of the body.
Insomnia and restless sleep are also common complaints among premenopausal women. This problem can then contribute to an overall sensation of fatigue and fogginess. The stimulation of specific acupuncture points can help induce more restful sleep, while TCM herbal supplements that support the liver and kidneys balance the endocrine and nervous systems.
How Does an Acupuncturist Treat Menopause?
Estrogen is similar to what acupuncturists call Jing Qi, a foundational energy with which we are born. As we age, our supply of this potent energy decreases over time. Lifestyles that involve a lot of stress, long hours spent sitting or standing, unhealthy eating and drinking habits can also contribute to loss of Jing Qi. Another factor that can contribute to menopause is an imbalance in Yin and Yang energies. Yin can be thought of as the cooling system of the body. When this cooling system declines, heat symptoms will appear, such as night sweats, restlessness, hot flashes, mood swings, heart palpitations and insomnia. The decline of Yang energy can also lead to imbalance. Yang represents the warming and metabolizing functions of the body. When Yang is unbalanced, symptoms may include water retention, cold hands and feet, weight gain, edema, indigestion, hypertension, or raised cholesterol levels.
An acupuncturist will conduct a thorough evaluation and a complete health history and develop a unique treatment plan that will address each patient’s individual concerns. When treating menopausal symptoms, an acupuncturist must first determine where the energy has changed, and what organ systems have become unbalanced. Once this is known, various natural therapies such as acupuncture, herbs, meditation, Qi Gong and diet can be used to correct the imbalances. Acupuncture and Chinese medicine offer a safe, natural, drug-free and effective way to address menopause symptoms.
Women who look for acupuncture near me to address hot flashes, in particular, find relief from menopause symptoms after as few as three treatments, but a full session of eight acupuncture treatment for menopause has been shown to produce significant reduction of symptoms for up to six months. Acupuncture and its related modalities are also effective at relieving perimenopausal symptoms such as anxiety, irritability, headaches and sleep difficulties.
A TCM practitioner uses all of the tools at her disposal, including the careful consideration of combinations of traditional herbal supplements to help alleviate discomfort and restore harmony to the body. Some herbs have been clinically demonstrated to help raise estrogen levels. Different presentations of perimenopausal symptoms call for different classic herbal formulae. Consistent use of this type of natural remedy for hot flashes and other signs of menopause, along with appropriate modifications to diet and lifestyle, can make a real difference in the quality of life experienced during this transition.
TCM and Acupuncture Treat Menopause Symptoms Naturally
TCM offers a holistic, whole-person approach. A qualified acupuncturist with expertise in womens’ health and menopause will offer patients invaluable advice regarding specific lifestyle changes that will help restore balance. Each woman’s unique situation can be eased with adjustments to offer menopause symptom relief. Feelings of anxiety and irritability, accompanied by restless sleep, can make life feel uncertain, like the foundation we have spent so many years building is crumbling. An acupuncturist understands, and helps patients deal with these subtle yet troubling pre-menopausal symptoms in a productive way. TCM encourages each patient to take responsibility for her own well-being, and gives her the tools with which to do exactly that.
As with everything in life, and especially in the search for optimal health, attitude is key. In TCM and in traditional Chinese culture, menopause is often referred to as “the Second Spring.” Even in contemporary culture, women still do the lion’s share of childcare and household duties within the family. Now that the “childbearing” years of a woman’s life have drawn to a close, she is free to direct her energies towards new pursuits. All women, whether or not they have spent their earlier adult years raising a family, can view this transformative time as an opportunity to focus on her own goals and desires, to bring her own dreams to fruition. Sometimes women struggle with this time emotionally, feeling that something is ending, that they are being diminished. Far from it! Second Spring is a time to plant the seeds of new projects, envision new adventures, and gently nurture growth.
The best time to treat symptoms of menopause is as soon as they begin to appear, when they are still mild. A acupuncturist with special expertise in womens’ health will be able to balance the female hormones so that the whole process will proceed smoothly. At any point, though, a woman with moderate or severe perimenopausal symptoms can feel the benefits of acupuncture treatment. If you or someone you know is experiencing menopause, find acupuncture near me to help navigate the path of perimenopause with ease.
For more tips on how to best manage hot flashes and other symptoms of menopause, read our Dr. Cai’s blog article on how to treat menopause symptoms.