WHAT IS IT?
During acupuncture, thin needles are put through the skin. The therapist chooses which sites to use. Needles may be given a low electric current. This is called electroacupuncture. It may be used with acupressure which uses pressure points instead of needles. It is used to treat pain and other physical, mental, and emotional conditions.
Acupuncture is part of traditional Chinese medicine. Acupuncture is thought to balance the flow of energy or life force — known as chi or qi (chee). Qi flows through pathways (meridians) in your body. Needles inserted into meridians will re-balance energy flow.
Western medicine views the acupuncture points as places to stimulate nerves, muscles and connective tissue. Some believe that this boosts the body’s natural painkillers.
OUR BOTTOM LINE: DOES IT HELP?
MAYBE. Acupuncture may be helpful for some aches and pains.
NO. While one summary of the studies found that acupuncture may help reduce hot flash severity, we do not share this view. There is a strong placebo effect in studies of acupuncture. Studies that used a sham (fake) acupuncture as a control showed no effect. We conclude that acupuncture does not decrease hot flash frequency, severity, or quality of life.
ACHES AND PAINS
Although acupuncture has been extensively studied for various types of pain, it has not been tested specifically for relief of menopause-related aches and pains. However, there is evidence that acupuncture may provide modest benefit for musculoskeletal pain, osteoarthritis, chronic headache, or shoulder pain.
Acupuncture has not been tested specifically for relief of menopause-related weight gain. For the general population of overweight adults, it may increase weight loss when combined with lifestyle changes such as improved diet and exercise. On it’s own, acupuncture decreases body-mass-index (BMI) by a very small amount, compared to a fake acupuncture procedure.
HOT FLASHES AND NIGHT SWEATS
Acupuncture does not decrease the frequency of hot flashes and night sweats.
POTENTIAL RISKS & SIDE EFFECTS
The risks of acupuncture are low if you have a competent, certified acupuncture practitioner using sterile needles. Contaminated needles could cause infection.
Side effects can include soreness, bleeding and bruising. Disposable needles make the risk of infection very low.
People who use blood thinners or have a bleeding disorder may bruise or bleed more.
Electroacupuncture may interfere with pacemaker function.
Some types of acupuncture may stimulate labor, which could result in a premature delivery.
QUALITY OF LIFE EXPECTATIONS
Acupuncture does not improve menopause related quality of life.
IF I WANT TO TRY THIS TREATMENT WHAT ARE MY NEXT STEPS?
We do not recommend acupuncture for menopause symptoms.
Avis NE, Coeytaux RR, Isom S, Prevette K, Morgan T. Free PMC Article Acupuncture in Menopause (AIM) study: a pragmatic, randomized controlled trial. Menopause. 2016 Jun;23(6):626-37. doi: 10.1097/GME.0000000000000597. PMID: 27023860
Avis NE, Coeytaux RR, Levine B, Isom S, Morgan T. Trajectories of response to acupuncture for menopausal vasomotor symptoms: the Acupuncture in Menopause study. Menopause. 2017 Feb;24(2):171-179. doi: 10.1097/GME.0000000000000735.PMID: 27676631
Baccetti S, Da Frè M, Becorpi A, Faedda M, Guerrera A, Monechi MV, Munizzi RM, Parazzini F. Free PMC ArticleAcupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine for hot flushes in menopause: a randomized trial. J Altern Complement Med. 2014 Jul;20(7):550-7. doi: 10.1089/acm.2012.0499. Epub 2014 May 14. PMID: 24827469
Barton DL, Schroeder KC, Banerjee T, Wolf S, Keith T, Elkins G. Efficacy of a biobehavioral intervention for hot flashes: a randomized controlled pilot study. Menopause 2017;24:774-782
Befus D, Coeytaux RR, Goldstein KM, McDuffie JR, Shepherd-Banigan M, Goode AP, Kosinski A, Van Noord MG, Adam SS, Masilamani V, Nagi A, Williams JW Jr. Management of Menopause Symptoms with Acupuncture: An Umbrella Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. J Altern Complement Med. 2018 Apr;24(4):314-323. doi: 10.1089/acm.2016.0408. Epub 2018 Jan 3. Review.
Bokmand S, Flyger H. Acupuncture relieves menopausal discomfort in breast cancer patients: a prospective, double blinded, randomized study. Breast. 2013 Jun;22(3):320-3. doi: 10.1016/j.breast.2012.07.015. Epub 2012 Aug 18.
Borud EK, Alraek T, White A, et al. The Acupuncture on Hot Flushes Among Menopausal Women (ACUFLASH) study, a randomized controlledtrial. Menopause 2009;16:484-493
Chiu HY, Pan CH, Shyu YK, Han BC, Tsai PS. Effects of acupuncture on menopause-related symptoms and quality of life in women on natural menopause: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Menopause. 2015; 22:234–244.
Chiu HY, Pan CH, Shyu YK, Han BC, Tsai PS. Effects of acupuncture on menopause-related symptoms and quality of life in women in natural menopause: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials.Menopause. 2015 Feb;22(2):234-44. doi: 10.1097/GME.0000000000000260. Review.
Cho SH, Whang WW. Acupuncture for vasomotor menopausal symptoms:a systematic review. Menopause 2009;16:1065-1073.
Cramer H1, Lauche R, Langhorst J, Dobos G. Effectiveness of yoga for menopausal symptoms: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials.Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2012;2012:863905. doi: 10.1155/2012/863905. Epub 2012 Nov 7.
Cramer H1, Peng W2, Lauche R2. Yoga for menopausal symptoms-A systematic review and meta-analysis. Maturitas.2018 Mar;109:13-25. doi: 10.1016/j.maturitas.2017.12.005. Epub 2017 Dec 6.
Dodin S, Blanchet C, Marc I, et al. Acupuncture for menopausal hot flushes. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2013;7:CD007410.
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.
Fu C, Zhao N, Liu Z, Yuan LH, Xie C, Yang WJ, Yu XT, Yu H, Chen YF. Acupuncture Improves Peri-menopausal Insomnia: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Sleep. 2017 Nov 1;40(11). doi: 10.1093/sleep/zsx153.
Goldstein K. Nonpharmacologic treatment for menopause-associated vasomotor Symptoms. VA Evidence-based synthesis program QUERI. July 2016 Grouped Yoga, Tai chi and Quigong but found nothing on the latter two interventions (covered years 2007-2011)
Goldstein KM, Coeytaux RR, Williams Jr JW, Shepherd-Banigan M, Goode AP, McDuffie JR, Befus D, Adam S, Masilamani V, Van Noord MG. Nonpharmacologic Treatments for Menopause-Associated Vasomotor Symptoms. VA ESP Project #09-009; 2016.
Hachul H, Garcia TK, Maciel AL, Yagihara F, Tufik S, Bittencourt L. Acupuncture improves sleep in postmenopause in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Climacteric. 2013 Feb;16(1):36-40. doi: 10.3109/13697137.2012.698432. Epub 2012 Sep 3.
Kim DI, Jeong JC, Kim KH, Rho JJ, Choi MS, Yoon SH, Choi SM, Kang KW, Ahn HY, Lee MS. Acupuncture for hot flushes in perimenopausal and postmenopausal women: a randomised, sham-controlled trial. Acupunct Med. 2011 Dec;29(4):249-56. doi: 10.1136/aim.2011.004085. Epub 2011 Jun 8.
2018) Effect of acupuncture and intervention types on weight loss: a systematic review and meta‐analysis. Obesity Reviews, 19: 1585– 1596. https://doi.org/10.1111/obr.12747., , and (
Lee MS, Kim KH, Shin BC, Choi SM, Ernst E. Acupuncture for treating hot flushes in men with prostate cancer: a systematic review. Support Care Cancer 2009;17:763-770.
Lesi G, Razzini G, Musti MA, Stivanello E, Petrucci C, Benedetti B, Rondini E, Ligabue MB, Scaltriti L, Botti A, Artioli F, Mancuso P, Cardini F, Pandolfi P. Acupuncture As an Integrative Approach for the Treatment of Hot Flashes in Women With Breast Cancer: A Prospective Multicenter Randomized Controlled Trial (AcCliMaT). J Clin Oncol. 2016 May 20;34(15):1795-802. doi: 10.1200/JCO.2015.63.2893. Epub 2016 Mar 28.
NAMS. Position Statement Nonhormal management of menopause-associated vasomotor symptoms: 2015 position statement of the North American Menopause Society. Menopause 22 (11):
Nedeljkovic M, Tian L, Ji P, Déglon-Fischer A, Stute P, Ocon E, Birkhäuser M, Ausfeld-Hafter B. Effects of acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine (Zhi Mu 14) on hot flushes and quality of life in postmenopausal women: results of a four-arm randomized controlled pilot trial. Menopause. 2014 Jan;21(1):15-24. doi: 10.1097/GME.0b013e31829374e8.
Nedstrand E, Wijma K, Wyon Y, Hammar M. Vasomotor symptoms decrease in women with breast cancer randomized to treatment with applied relaxation or electro-acupuncture: a preliminary study. Climacteric. 2005;8(3):243-250.
Painovich JM, Shufelt CL, Azziz R, Yang Y, Goodarzi MO, Braunstein GD, Karlan BY, Stewart PM, Merz CN. A pilot randomized, single-blind, placebo-controlled trial of traditional acupuncture for vasomotor symptoms and mechanistic pathways of menopause.Menopause. 2012 Jan;19(1):54-61. doi: 10.1097/gme.0b013e31821f9171.
Sunay D, Ozdiken M, Arslan H, Seven A, Aral Y. The effect of acupuncture on postmenopausal symptoms and reproductive hormones: a sham controlled clinical trial. Acupunct Med. 2011 Mar;29(1):27-31. doi: 10.1136/aim.2010.003285.
Vickers AJ, Vertosick EA, Lewith G, et al. Acupuncture for Chronic Pain: Update of an Individual Patient Data Meta-Analysis. J Pain. 2018;19(5):455–474. doi:10.1016/j.jpain.2017.11.005
Wei QB, Ding N, Wang JJ, Wang W and Gao WP: Acupoint selection for the treatment of dry eye: A systematic review and meta‑analysis of randomized controlled trials. Exp Ther Med 19: 2851-2860, 2020
Yuan QL, Wang P, Liu L, et al. Acupuncture for musculoskeletal pain: A meta-analysis and meta-regression of sham-controlled randomized clinical trials. Sci Rep. 2016;6:30675. Published 2016 Jul 29. doi:10.1038/srep30675
Zaborowska E, Brynhildsen J, Damberg S, et al. Effects of acupuncture, applied relaxation, estrogens and placebo on hot flushes in postmenopausal women: an analysis of two prospective, parallel, randomized studies. Climacteric. 2007;10(1):38-45.
Last reviewed February 15, 2021