If you’ve had one, there’s no mistaking it: a sudden, intense, hot feeling rushing through your upper body, perhaps proceeded by sweating, anxiety and rapid heartbeat. Yep, we’re talking about hot flashes, that dreaded symptom of menopause. Typically we think of hot flashes affecting only menopausal women, but anyone undergoing hormone therapy is susceptible. It turns out that men undergoing hormone therapy to treat prostate cancer frequently suffer from the same uncomfortable symptoms. A new study suggests these men may find relief from hot flashes through the ancient Chinese practice of acupuncture.
Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related death in men in the United States. A standard treatment is hormone therapy designed to reduce levels of testosterone in the body through the use of certain drugs. This therapy can help prolong the life of the patient but often has uncomfortable side effects like flushing and reddening of the face and torso, anxiety, chills and heart palpitations. These hot flash symptoms are associated with the sudden drop in levels of sex hormones. Some drugs such as Venlafaxine and Gabapentin successfully reduce these hot flashes, but may cause other unwanted side effects.
A new study tested the effectiveness of acupuncture in treating men who experienced hot flashes associated with hormone therapy. Acupuncture, a popular form of alternative medicine, involves inserting ultra-thin needles into the skin to treat various medical conditions and health ailments. The results were overwhelmingly positive, with the study participants reporting 80.3 percent improvement of hot flash symptoms, even after eight months of therapy. Compared to the commonly used drugs to treat hot flashes, acupuncture produced no side effects.
While more research needs to be performed to confirm that link between acupuncture and relief of hot flashes, the study gives new hope to the many men undergoing prostate cancer treatment and actually may even have long-term health benefits to boot. Acupuncture has been touted for increasing mental clarity and physical well-being through the rebalancing of the body’s energies.