January 27, 2016
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Acupuncture, sham procedure produce similar outcomes for menopausal women with hot flashes

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Menopausal women experiencing bothersome hot flashes reported similar outcomes when randomly assigned acupuncture therapy or a sham procedure, according to research in Annals of Internal Medicine.

Carolyn Ee, MBBS, of the department of general practice at the University of Melbourne, Australia, and colleagues analyzed data from 327 postmenopausal women with a mean hot flash score of at least 14 (equal to seven moderate hot flashes per day) or a diagnosis of kidney yin deficiency based on structured Chinese medicine history. Researchers randomly assigned women acupuncture (n = 163) or a sham procedure (n = 164) for 8 weeks (twice weekly for 2 weeks; weekly thereafter). Acupuncturists working with sham participants used blunt needles on three sites not designated acupuncture points. Researchers told participants they had a 50% chance of receiving real or sham acupuncture. Women recorded the number of daily mild, moderate, severe and very severe hot flashes for 7 days using a validated hot flash diary at baseline, 4 weeks, end of treatment and at 3 and 6 months after treatment concluded.

After 8 weeks of treatment, both groups reported approximately 40% improvement in vasomotor symptoms, which was sustained at 3 and 6 months after treatment. Mean hot flash scores were 15.36 in the acupuncture group and 15.04 in the sham group; adjusted mean difference for hot flash score at end of treatment was 0.33 (95% CI, –1.85 to 2.75).

More than 60% of participants reported being unsure of their treatment allocation; 35% of women in the acupuncture group and 31% of women in the sham group believed that they received real acupuncture therapy. No adverse events were reported.

“Unless further high-quality evidence emerges, we cannot recommend skin-penetrating acupuncture as an efficacious treatment of this indication,” the researchers wrote. “The effects, if any, of acupuncture on these symptoms seem to be unrelated to needling.” – by Regina Schaffer

Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.