This recent Australian study1 aimed to determine whether acupuncture can reduce hot flushes in women going through the menopause and used a comparison with sham therapy. For this predominantly Caucasian group who had neither breast cancer nor surgical menopause, Chinese medicine acupuncture was not superior to noninsertive sham acupuncture.
The Cochrane review from 20132 compared acupuncture with no treatment and concluded there appeared to be a benefit from acupuncture, but acupuncture appeared to be less effective than menopausal hormone therapy (MHT). The review authors did note that findings should be treated with great caution as the evidence was low or very low quality and the studies comparing acupuncture versus no treatment or MHT were not controlled with sham acupuncture or placebo HT. Data on adverse effects were lacking.
Background: Hot flashes (HFs) affect up to 75% of menopausal women and pose a considerable health and financial burden. Evidence of acupuncture efficacy as an HF treatment is conflicting.
Objective: To assess the efficacy of Chinese medicine acupuncture against sham acupuncture for menopausal HFs.
Design: Stratified, blind (participants, outcome assessors, and investigators, but not treating acupuncturists), parallel, randomized, sham-controlled trial with equal allocation. (Australia New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry: ACTRN12611000393954)
Setting: Community in Australia.
Participants: Women older than 40 years in the late menopausal transition or postmenopause with at least 7 moderate HFs daily, meeting criteria for Chinese medicine diagnosis of kidney yin deficiency.
Interventions: 10 treatments over 8 weeks of either standardized Chinese medicine needle acupuncture designed to treat kidney yin deficiency or noninsertive sham acupuncture.
Measurements: The primary outcome was HF score at the end of treatment. Secondary outcomes included quality of life, anxiety, depression, and adverse events. Participants were assessed at 4 weeks, the end of treatment, and then 3 and 6 months after the end of treatment. Intention-to-treat analysis was conducted with linear mixed-effects models.
Results: 327 women were randomly assigned to acupuncture (n = 163) or sham acupuncture (n = 164). At the end of treatment, 16% of participants in the acupuncture group and 13% in the sham group were lost to follow-up. Mean HF scores at the end of treatment were 15.36 in the acupuncture group and 15.04 in the sham group (mean difference, 0.33 [95% CI, −1.87 to 2.52]; P = 0.77). No serious adverse events were reported.
Limitation: Participants were predominantly Caucasian and did not have breast cancer or surgical menopause.
Conclusion: Chinese medicine acupuncture was not superior to noninsertive sham acupuncture for women with moderately severe menopausal HFs.
Primary Funding Source: National Health and Medical Research Council.
1. Ee C, Xue C, Chondros P, Myers SP, French SD, Teede H, Pirotta M. Acupuncture for Menopausal Hot Flashes: A Randomized Trial. Ann Intern Med. 2016 Feb 2;164(3):146-54. doi: 10.7326/M15-1380. Epub 2016 Jan 19. PMID: 26784863
Content created 11 February 2016