Menopause: From the viewpoint of Traditional Chinese Medicine
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), menopause is viewed as a time of new beginnings and celebration. At menopause, the woman has moved through the stage of carrying and birthing offspring, and the energy used to nurture the uterus can now be redirected to the heart which allows the women to nurture herself and become a ‘wise women’. For some women menopause is no cause for celebration due to a range of symptoms that can drastically affect their quality of life for 5 – 10 years. Approximately 57% of women experience symptoms such as hot flushes and night sweats during menopause. Some women may experience the grief of moving to a new stage of life. Others may have seen their mother suffer greatly and worry the same will happen to them.
What causes menopause?
Menopause usually starts between the ages of 45 – 55. Perimenopause can start many years before menopause. It is caused by a change or imbalance in the rise and fall in hormones. Initially the cycles may shorten eventually lengthening until cycles end permanently.
The TCM viewpoint of menopause focuses on the Kidney energy as this is where our original energy is stored. As we age, the amount of kidney energy naturally decreases. However, it is still important to nourish the energy we do have and balance yin and yang, specifically Kidney yin. Yin is responsible for nourishing, cooling and moistening the body. A deficiency will lead to heat, dryness and lack of nourishment to all areas of the body – all symptoms of menopause.
What are the symptoms of menopause?
- Change in cycle length
- Hot flushes and night sweats
- Sleeping issues – difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or not sleeping at all
- Joint pain
- Vaginal dryness
- Bladder problems
- Mood changes
- Excessive worry and rumination
Treatment options for menopause
The most common treatment is hormone replacement therapy. However, acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine may offer a natural alternative to help women transition smoothly.
Medical treatment: Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is the medical treatment of menopause. It involves the use of tablets, gels and creams, patches, pessaries and IUDs to balance the level of hormones in the body. HRT is useful for the symptoms of hot flushes and night sweats, but may also benefit mood, sleep, vaginal dryness, joint pain and sex drive. Please speak with your GP to find out the benefits and risks of HRT.
Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine: Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine treatment looks for the pattern of disharmony that is causing an imbalance presenting as menopausal symptoms. Menopause presents differently in each woman, so no treatment is alike. Your practitioner will talk to you at length about your general health, symptoms, past health patterns and the health of your family members before using the diagnostic techniques of pulse and tongue diagnosis. Your practitioner then understands what is occurring in your body and can tailor a treatment to bring your energy and body back into balance. Several studies have shown that acupuncture may help to reduce menopausal symptoms and offers an alternative where women can’t or do not wish to undertake HRT and that relief can last for at least six months.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT): CBT along with hypnosis has been shown to reduce many symptoms of menopause and may be an effective alternative to HRT for women. CBT works by teaching woman to change thoughts and behaviours that may be contributing to their menopausal symptoms.
Lifestyle and diet changes: Improving diet and lifestyle choices such as stopping smoking, including mild to moderate exercise and incorporating mindfulness techniques can help with symptoms by improving overall health and wellbeing.
Interested in trying acupuncture for menopause?
What to expect in your treatment.
- Acupuncture treatment tailored specifically to you
- Chinese Herbal prescription to strengthen the acupuncture treatment
- Dietary advice – what foods to eat, what to avoid
- Lifestyle advice
How many treatments will I need?
Initially, we would recommend six weekly treatments – each treatment will involve pulse diagnosis and will be tailored to you at the time of treatment. We will then reassess you and your symptoms and will discuss further treatment options. This may involve moving to maintenance treatments at regular intervals. You may find your symptoms will improve faster than the initial six treatments and we may be able to discuss maintenance options earlier.
If you are interested in acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine please call us on 8296 4333 to make an appointment.
- Avis, NE et al. Acupuncture in Menopause (AIM) Study: A Pragmatic, Randomized Controlled Trial. Menopause. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4874921/
- Better Health Victoria. Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) and menopause. https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/hormone-replacement-therapy-hrt-and-menopause
- British Medical Journal. Acupuncture may ease troublesome menopausal symptoms. https://www.bmj.com/company/newsroom/acupuncture-may-ease-troublesome-menopausal-symptoms/
- Darling Health. Menopause: A Second Spring. http://darlinghealth.com.au/second-spring/
- Shen Nong. TCM Syndrome Differentiation for Menopause Problems. http://www.shen-nong.com/eng/exam/specialties_menopause_syndrome.html
- The Royal Womens Hospital. CBT and hypnosis effective in treating menopause. https://www.thewomens.org.au/news/cbt-and-hypnosis-effective-in-treating-menopause