Acupuncture for hot flashes

December 1, 2006

Acupuncture significantly reduces the severity but not the frequency of nocturnal hot flashes, according to the findings of a prospective, randomized, placebo-controlled study of 29 women between the ages of 45 and 65.

Acupuncture significantly reduces the severity but not the frequency of nocturnal hot flashes, according to the findings of a prospective, randomized, placebo-controlled study of 29 women between the ages of 45 and 65.

Approximately half the women in the study received 7 weeks of real acupuncture using points selected to target hot flashes as a primary symptom and sleeplessness as a secondary symptom, while the remaining women received sham treatment.

At the end of the study period, the women receiving active treatment experienced a significantly greater percentage reduction in nocturnal hot flash severity (27.84% ± 30.67%) than the women receiving placebo (6.26% ± 18.49%; Mann-Whitney U = 48.00; P=0.017; effect size = 0.76). While the frequency of nocturnal hot flashes decreased in both groups, there was no significant difference between the two groups by the end of the trial.

Huang MI, Nir Y, Chen B, et al. A randomized controlled study of acupuncture for postmenopausal hot flashes: effect on nocturnal hot flashes and sleep quality. Fertil Steril. 2006;86:700-710.

Commentary by Nanette Santoro, MD, Professor and Director, Division of Reproductive Endocrinology, Department of Ob/Gyn & Women's Health, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, New York, N.Y.:

Both the Huang study and the Carmody study provide interesting pilot data on complementary and alternative medical remedies for hot flashes. In the Huang study, the modest reduction in severity (28%) of nighttime hot flashes is substantially improved over the very low placebo response (6%). Most studies do not have placebo responses that are so minimal. The Carmody study did not have a control group, limiting the ability to determine the potential usefulness of mindfulness-based stress reduction techniques. Nonetheless, both areas of investigation provide some hope for women who suffer from this common and bothersome symptom.