Hormonal Changes and Menopausal Symptoms
In order to understand how acupuncture and acupressure can help with menopausal symptoms, it is helpful to understand what is going on in a woman’s body at this time. So, in the time leading up to the menopause, a woman’s ovaries become less and less responsive to the pituitary hormones that stimulate growth of ovarian follicles, and this means the menstrual cycle becomes increasingly irregular – leading in some cases to increased frequency of menstruation and to heavier bleeding, but usually just before the menopause periods become lighter and less frequent. During this time a woman’s menstrual cycles will become more and more anovulatory, and this means that oestrogen levels will drop. The degree of this drop will vary for every woman, and this accounts for why they experience differing degrees of symptoms.
“There are many reasons why a woman may miss her period, or why periods might stop altogether.” – NHS Website (Read More)
Common Symptoms of the Menopause
Although most commonly referred to as the menopause, the process of change which occurs in the roughly five years running up to and following the cessation of menstruation should be more properly referred to as the climacteric. The drop in oestrogen discussed above is believed to be responsible for the hot flushes commonly experienced at this time. These can begin some years before the menopause, but generally peak one or two years before the periods stop and may persist for a number of years after. In hot flushes there will generally be a feeling of heat centred on the face which then spreads to other parts of the body. These flushes can last for up to three minutes and may be associated with a rise in temperature. They may also lead to sweating at night, and to a loss of sleep.
The drop in oestrogen at this time is also associated with a reduction in the strength of the pelvic floor which may lead to urinary issues, and to a loss of calcium for the bones which may lead to osteoporosis. Other symptoms experienced around the climacteric might be insomnia, tiredness, aching joints, headaches, palpitations, vaginal dryness (which may lead to UTIs), sweating, dizziness, irritability, anxiety and depression. Here, it is worth noting that anxiety and depression are more prominent for women in Westernised cultures, and some experts have speculated that this a result of the emphasis on youthfulness and vitality in these cultures.
Note: Qigong and Tai Chi exercise can help to strengthen the pelvic floor and counteract the weakening that occurs at this time. The gentle weight bearing nature of these exercise is also great for supporting bone strength. Find out more.
“The menopause is a natural part of ageing that usually occurs between 45 and 55 years of age, as a woman’s oestrogen levels decline. In the UK, the average age for a woman to reach the menopause is 51.” – NHS Website (Read More)
How Acupuncture and Acupressure can help with Menopausal Symptoms
Chinese medicine (whether acupuncture, acupressure or qigong) sees the climacteric as a time of life when depletion of the Yin and Yang factors in the body mean that a woman can no longer have children. Here, Yin relates to the essence, blood, and body fluids that are important physiological substances in Chinese Medicine. These Yin factors provide a cooling function within the body, and their depletion therefore accounts for the hot flushes that are common at this time. A depletion of Yin also accounts for why women may suffer from anxiety, as well as the strong headaches they might experience. With regards to societal pressures, it is worth noting that suppressed emotions are seen as a cause of stagnation that will also lead to heat effecting the body.
Note: Qigong and Meditation are a great way to address the anxiety that may arise at this time. We can use breathwork to settle the mind and to bring the body’s energies back into balance. Find out more.
“Acupuncture may help reduce symptoms of the menopause and perimenopause by regulating serum estradiol, follicle stimulating hormone and luteotrophic hormone; increasing relaxation and reducing tension; altering the brain’s mood chemistry, reducing serotonin levels, and increasing endorphins and neuropeptide Y levels, which can help to combat negative affective states; stimulating nerves located in muscles and other tissues, which leads to release of endorphins and other neurohumoral factors, and changes the processing of pain in the brain and spinal cord.” – BAcC Fact Sheet (Read More)
When Yin comes out of balance it is common for Yang to manifest problems too, as Yin and Yang depend on one another to maintain balance. Here, Yang refers to the energy and functioning of the body, as well as to heat in the body. In the case of Yang imbalance, women might feel cold in between their hot flushes, and might also experience low moods. It is also possible to experience symptoms of both Yin and Yang deficiency at the same time. Treatment with acupuncture, acupressure and qigong exercises aims to rebalance the relationship between the Yin and Yang factors within a woman’s body, and thereby to ameliorate the issues she may be suffering with.