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Acupuncture for menopausal hot flashes: clinical evidence update and its relevance to decision making

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Abstract

Objective:

There is conflicting evidence on the efficacy and effectiveness of acupuncture for menopausal hot flashes. This article synthesizes the best available evidence for when women are considering whether acupuncture might be useful for menopausal hot flashes.

Methods:

We searched electronic databases to identify randomized controlled trials and systematic reviews of acupuncture for menopausal hot flushes.

Results:

The overall evidence demonstrates that acupuncture is effective when compared with no treatment, but not efficacious compared with sham. Methodological challenges such as the complex nature of acupuncture treatment, the physiological effects from sham, and the significant efficacy of placebo therapy generally in treating hot flashes all impact on these considerations.

Conclusions:

Acupuncture improves menopausal hot flashes compared with no treatment; however, not compared with sham acupuncture. This is also consistent with the evidence that a range of placebo interventions improve menopausal symptoms. As clinicians play a vital role in assisting evidence-informed decisions, we need to ensure women understand the evidence and can integrate it with personal preferences. Some women may choose acupuncture for hot flashes, a potentially disabling condition without long-term adverse health consequences. Yet, women should do so understanding the evidence, and its strengths and weaknesses, around both effective medical therapies and acupuncture. Likewise, cost to the individual and the health system needs to be considered in the context of value-based health care.

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