Menopause is defined as the permanent stoppage of menstruation, marking the end of a woman's ability to conceive. It is a completely natural and normal process which occurs when the ovaries decrease the production of oestrogen and progesterone. Menopause usually occurs between age 45-60 but it is different for every women. It can also occur when the ovaries are surgically removed or stop functioning for any other reason. Menopause is considered complete once a woman has gone a full year without menstruating. Menopause can be confirmed by a blood hormone test.
For some women the transition through menopause is smooth sailing however for majority of women there are noticeable side effects such as night sweating, hot flushes, vaginal dryness, frequent or difficult urination, achy joints, anxiety, depression, poor concentration and fatigue. These symptoms, usually transitory, are often unpredictable and can impact a women's life significantly. Where symptoms are severe, medical intervention such as HRT may be prescribed by your Doctor, which can help to reduce menopausal symptoms, however there are some risks and side-effects including increased risk of endometrial, breast or ovarian cancer.
In Chinese Medicine theory, menopause occurs when a women's body transitions from preparing for motherhood to instead preserving blood and energy in order to nourish her own body and sustain vitality. A women's reproductive energy and longevity is governed by her kidneys, at menopause the channels that send qi and blood to the uterus instead conserve and cycle this energy through her body to nourish the body and mind. Thus, in the Chinese Medicine, menopause is considered to be a hallowed transition from mother to wise and enlightened women.
"TCM sees menopause as a deep energy shift that extends beyond physical changes. It's a natural and normal part of a woman's life, yet it has the power to affect her mind, emotions and spirit. Menopause is an energy gateway - a unique chance for a woman to prepare her body, mind and spirit for a healthy, long life. It's a time when she can heal, strengthen herself, and balance and harmonize her energies. Menopause creates the opportunity for a transformation, a new beginning, as a woman becomes free to discover, pursue or complete her life's mission and touch her spirit and the spirits of those around her in a profound and meaningful way." - Dr. Nan Lu, "Traditional Chinese Medicine: A Women's Guide to a Hormone-Free Menopause." (2010).
Acupuncture can be used to balance the blood and qi (our 'life-force energy') to help stabilize the hormones through menopause. With particular regard for a women's kidney energy, which in TCM is considered to be the governing force of reproduction, your practitioner can help to smooth the transition to menopause. Acupuncture can reduce the frequency and severity of hot flushes, night sweats, fatigue, dryness etc. Your practitioner will recommend a course of treatment with some lifestyle and diet advice to support the rebalancing of your qi and a smooth transition into menopause.
For more information on how acupuncture can help and a summary of the clinical evidence, please see the British Acupuncture Council factsheet.
Deborah Tanguy BHSc, MBAcC
Lead practitioner at Wholebody Acupuncture and a registered member of the British Acupuncture Council with a special interest in treating women's health and injury recovery.