In each installment of Ask A Doctor, your burning questions about hormones, menopause symptoms, sleep, sex, and more are answered by doctors who specialize in treating women in midlife.
Dear Ask A Doctor,
I’ve heard that acupuncture can help with certain perimenopause and menopause symptoms. Has this actually been proven by medical studies? How do I know if it’s a good option for me? And how can I find someone who practices it in my area?
Dr. Fenske says:
There are a few different benefits of acupuncture for perimenopause and menopause. Acupuncture has been documented to help with insomnia, anxiety, and depression associated with perimenopause, and it can also be used for hot flashes as well as burning mouth syndrome. It’s a great alternative medicine option that has some data behind it to really support its use in management of those symptoms.
What does research say about menopause & acupuncture?
A small 2022 study of perimenopausal women showed acupuncture treatment led to improved overall sleep and prolonged sleep. A lot of times in perimenopause, women report that 3 a.m. or 4 a.m. wake-up. The study found that acupuncture helped with prolonging sleep and having fewer middle-of-the-night wake-ups.
And a 2016 study of about 200 women found that those who got acupuncture treatment experienced a 36 percent decrease in hot flashes or vasomotor symptoms during that time.
Who can use acupuncture for menopause symptoms?
If you’re someone who can’t be on any hormones, then acupuncture is definitely a good option to be used with supplements and so on. It can also be used in conjunction with hormones. If you are on hormones, you may not find a hormone that is doing enough for your anxiety or depression: So many women experience anxiety and/or depression during this time, and they don’t want to be on SSRIs, antidepressants, or anti-anxiety medication but aren’t getting quite enough reprieve with the hormones. Then you can use acupuncture in conjunction with the more traditional therapy that you’re doing.
I think that really everyone is a candidate for acupuncture treatment. The only limiting factor is that it’s not necessarily covered by insurance, so it could be costly. But if you’re looking for an alternative approach to treating your symptoms, acupuncture is a great idea.
Where can I find a practitioner?
You can ask your doctor if there’s an acupuncturist whom they work with, and you can also check the website for the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, the organization which regulates licensing for acupuncturists — it has a “find a practitioner” directory.