An Australian study found traditional Chinese acupuncture is no better than fake treatment for hot flushes among menopausal women. However, some women could still feel a beneficial placebo effect from acupuncture.

The researchers estimated that hot flushes experienced by one in eight menopausal women can last five to seven years. This causes many women to look for treatment, one of which is the traditional Chinese acupuncture.

A group of researchers from various universities teamed with Jean Hailes for Women's Health, one of Australia's top women's health groups. The research team analyzed 327 women who suffer from menopausal hot flushes.

The women were divided into two groups: the first group received 10 sessions of traditional Chinese acupuncture in eight weeks, while the second group received a sham treatment cleverly designed to feel like traditional acupuncture. The latter was delivered by professional acupuncturists. The women involved in the study had no idea which group they were a part of.

The regularity and severity scores for hot flushes were taken before and after the experiment. Interestingly, the average scores in both groups decreased by 40 percent when the experiment ended.

Unfortunately, this also revealed that the real, traditional Chinese acupuncture is no better than the sham acupuncture where the needle actually contracts into itself and doesn't penetrate the skin. The study was published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine on Jan. 19.

The initial results persisted when the same women were surveyed for the second time, six months after the first study. Lead study author Dr. Carolyn Ee said that the placebo effect of the sham acupuncture could be working and the women believed they were being cured, leading them not to report hot flushes during the study.

"This was a large and rigorous study and we are confident there is no additional benefit from inserting needles compared with stimulation from pressuring the blunt needles without skin penetration for hot flushes," added Ee, a Chinese medicine practitioner and GP at the Melbourne University.

GP Dr. Adeline Ooi, GP at the Jean Hailes for Women's Health clinic, said she would continue discussing acupuncture with menopausal women who have no options left. Ooi, who practices acupuncture to treat musculoskeletal conditions, added that having a proactive therapist who listens and attends to the patient is still helpful.

Photo: Marnie Joyce | Flickr

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