Acupuncture can also be beneficial when it comes to helping with both the physical and emotional symptoms associated with menopause.
We spoke to acupuncturists to get a better understanding of how and why this form of alternative medicine can be so helpful for those going through menopause.
What is Acupuncture, and How Exactly Does it Aid with Menopause Symptoms?
On paper, it looks like acupuncture is just little needles that go into your skin on different parts of your body. And while that is part of it, at its core, acupuncture is about so much more.
“In Chinese medicine, we view the body imbalances as balancing yin and yang,” explains Dr. Jayne Dabu, DAOM, L.Ac of Virginia Beach. Acupuncture, she says, “is all about balancing yin and yang in the body wherever there are symptoms, conditions, diseases, or syndromes.”
“Acupuncture works on balancing the autonomic nervous system of the body (the yin and yang),” she says. “We are working on the neurohormones of the brain and hormones of the body that are the messengers that tells the systems and organs what to do.”
Finding the balance the yin and yang that is offset by menopause can be done through certain pressure points. For menopause, Dr. Evan Mahoney, DAOM, AP, L.Ac. of Cape Coral says an acupuncturist would likely use kidney channel points as part of treatment for older men and women, as the kidneys’ essence “determines the quality of our aging process.”
Another technique, and one that Dr. Mahoney uses himself, is a four-point meditation technique called Saam acupuncture. “Along with these extremity points (which are on the right arm and leg) we will use important acupuncture points on the lower abdomen which pertain to influential points of the kidneys and other organs.”
A fundamental tenet of acupuncture is known as achieving Qi (or Chi) during acupuncture, says Dr. Mahoney. “Qi rises to the surface and pushes against the boundaries of growth and healing when we are most comfortable and relaxed.”
What Acupuncture Does for the Emotional and Physical Aspects of Menopause
Some of the most common symptoms associated with menopause include irritability, mood swings, sadness, and anxiety. “Acupuncture can regulate serotonin and dopamine levels of the body,” says Dr. Dabu.
So, how is this done? In acupuncture, Dr. Mahoney says these mental and emotional symptoms pertain to the kidneys and liver, while sadness is a quality of the lungs and anxiety is that of the heart.
“We can take each of these emotions as they occur and identify them with a specific organ. We can then use acupuncture and/or meditation to act upon that specific organ system,” he explains.
When it comes to the physical symptoms, especially those notorious hot flashes, Dr. Dabu says that when a woman has a deficiency of yin (thus, overheating), acupuncture can tonify the yin and regulate the hormones so there’s no longer an imbalance of things like estrogen and progesterone.
Other symptoms of menopause that can be aided through acupuncture include chills, sleep issues, vaginal dryness, and irregular periods.
As Dr. Dabu notes, “Menstruation is ‘tang gui’ in Chinese Medicine. Women are always losing their blood and yin throughout their lives.” When it comes to menopause, there is a yin deficiency pattern (including those aforementioned symptoms), and acupuncture is about restoring their balance in both your mind and body.
Of course, this will vary for each person, as Dr. Dabu puts it simply: “Chinese Medicine is a medical art and is not a cookbook protocol for menopause. The points will differ based on the symptoms.”
Treatment plans when it comes to getting acupuncture to help with menopause will vary from patient to patient (though Dr. Dabu says the average is around 12 visits) and sessions can last anywhere from 25 minutes to an hour.
Both doctors urge those interested in getting help for menopause to make sure they see a licensed acupuncturist with at least 3-4 years of training in an acupuncture specific program.