Objective: To investigate the feasibility of conducting a randomized trial of the effect of acupuncture in decreasing hot flashes in peri- and postmenopausal women.
Design: Fifty-six women ages 44 to 55 with no menses in the past 3 months and at least four hot flashes per day were recruited from two clinical centers and randomized to one of three treatment groups: usual care (n = 19), sham acupuncture (n = 18), or Traditional Chinese Medicine acupuncture (n = 19). Acupuncture treatments were scheduled twice weekly for 8 consecutive weeks. The sham acupuncture group received shallow needling in nontherapeutic sites. The Traditional Chinese Medicine acupuncture group received one of four treatments based on a Traditional Chinese Medicine diagnosis. Usual care participants were instructed to not initiate any new treatments for hot flashes during the study. Daily diaries were used to track frequency and severity of hot flashes. The mean daily index score was based on the number of mild, moderate, and severe hot flashes. Follow-up analyses were adjusted for baseline values, clinical center, age, and body mass index.
Results: There was a significant decrease in mean frequency of hot flashes between weeks 1 and 8 across all groups (P = 0.01), although the differences between the three study groups were not significant. However, the two acupuncture groups showed a significantly greater decrease than the usual care group (P < 0.05), but did not differ from each other. Results followed a similar pattern for the hot flash index score. There were no significant effects for changes in hot flash interference, sleep, mood, health-related quality of life, or psychological well-being.
Conclusions: These results suggest either that there is a strong placebo effect or that both traditional and sham acupuncture significantly reduce hot flash frequency.