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The onset of menopause, which usually happens between 40 and 50 years can be a stressful time for women. It is characterized by various symptoms like irregular menstrual cycle, mood swings, night sweat, dry skin, weight gain, hot flashes, and even depression, which can last for a few years. All these are caused due to hormonal fluctuations. To ease the discomfort, many women seek medical advice and some even turn to antidepressants and hormonal replacement therapy. But this treatment is not entirely risk-free. It comes loaded with unpleasant side effects. A substitute to this therapy is acupuncture, a technique that is slowly gaining popularity in the United States. An ancient Chinese technique, acupuncture is used widely to treat a variety of ailments, including menopause, by inserting needles in various parts of the body. It has been in use for thousands of years in China.

How Acupuncture Works

Acupuncture believes in the theory that the body can remain healthy if a perfect balance of yin and yang is achieved. Energy, also known as qi, (pronounced chi) flows through our body along meridians, and any imbalance between yin and yang can cause the flow of qi to be blocked. Traditional Chinese medicine and therapies, including acupuncture believe that this energy is primarily stored in the kidneys and is responsible for proper growth and well-being of all bodily functions. An imbalance or deficiency in the energy level can have an adverse impact on our health. This imbalance can be treated with the help of acupuncture needles. Insertion of thin needles in different parts of the body that lie along the meridians will result in the energy flow being restored. An estimated 2000 such trigger points are found all over the human body which can be used as insertion points.

A normal acupuncture session involves the use of approximately 15 extremely thin needles, inserted in strategic locations all over the body, where they are supposed to remain for 15-30 minutes. In many cases, these points are nowhere placed near the area of pain. Patients have reported feeling relaxed and rejuvenated after an acupuncture session. Usually it takes several weeks or months, depending upon the patient and the severity of the ailment for him or her to fully experience the benefits of acupuncture.

How Acupuncture Helps Menopause

Acupuncture helps to curb menopausal symptoms by stimulating the release of endorphin, a neurochemical that resides in the brain and is known as the body's natural painkiller. Along with analgesic properties, endorphins also give rise to a feeling of wellbeing. This regulates the body temperature, and clinical research has proven that acupuncture is helpful in relieving hot flushes. Acupuncture also increases blood flow, which results in improved blood circulation. This is a boon for some women as it helps them enjoy uninterrupted sleep at night, as the bothersome symptoms can even cause insomnia. This technique also balances the hormones estrogen and LH (luteinizing hormone), thus creating metabolic equilibrium. Additionally, the sense of peacefulness that endorphins trigger, helps control the mood swings and anxiety most women experience. And if one is feeling happy and relaxed, the discomfort she feels because of menopause is bound to ease away.

Acupuncture as an alternative therapy is a fairly safer method to treat menopause symptoms as compared to hormonal therapy. Talk to your gynecologist or seek advice from a reputed and licensed acupuncturist to see if this therapy will work for you. Find out from your insurance company if they cover acupuncture as a course of treatment, and if yes, to what extent. Based on the symptoms, the acupuncturist will devise a treatment plan that's best suited to address your unique problems. For some women, results may be instantaneous, whereas for others, it may take months before they feel the symptoms beginning to fade away.

As with other forms of alternative medicine and therapy, acupuncture might not prove helpful to every woman. Other things you may need to incorporate as part of your daily life are exercise and a healthy diet. Be sure to get adequate sleep. Acupuncture, when combined with a healthy lifestyle and stress reduction techniques like meditation and yoga can prove very useful to most women who suffer from the debilitating effects of menopause.