As I get older, I am more inclined to add to the list of things in life that you can be sure of: death, taxes and menopause. I’m getting ready for the inevitable, which is why I so enjoyed being able to ask Dr. Nekessa Remy about how acupuncture can help women through the hormonal transition period. Dr. Remy is a chiropractor, a registered and medical acupuncturist and one of Canada’s fastest-rising health and wellness experts in the industry today.
Plenty: I always feel that knowledge is power. I put my period on my calendar so I know exactly when to expect premenstrual symptoms. I find I cope with them so much more effectively if I know when they’re coming. How can we best prepare ourselves for menopause? What should we look out for? What is important to know ahead of time?
Dr. Remy: I agree, knowledge is power. You are your greatest health advocate! Therefore, I recommend that all women do their research. Start with your own family. Talk to your mom or grandmother and other female relatives to find out about their experiences. There can be a genetic component to symptoms experienced, so learn more about your family history. Yearly physicals are also important. Have your iron levels checked as well as thyroid levels as these can be related to some of the common symptoms associated with menopause. If there are any concerns, addressing them before you enter menopause can help to reduce or mitigate symptoms. Consulting with a naturopath can also be beneficial, as they can assess for many nutrient deficiencies and recommend dietary changes and/or supplements that also help your body through menopause.
What are some of the symptoms of menopause that acupuncture can treat?
Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese medicine technique where a practitioner stimulates specific points on the body usually by inserting thin needles through the skin. Often hormonal changes that occur during menopause can affect the body systems, causing blockages and imbalances which can lead to the various symptoms associated with menopause. The stimulation of acupuncture points along the body’s meridians releases blockages and promotes the smooth natural flow of energy, restoring balance and health to the body’s systems.
Research has found that acupuncture can help with common perimenopausal/menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats and insomnia. It can also help with often less discussed symptoms like anxiety and depression.
Do you treat all symptoms at once or one by one?
Yes, you can treat multiple symptoms at once. In fact, many of the acupuncture points used during treatments are designed to treat multiple symptoms related to one specific condition, in this case menopause.
How quickly can patients expect relief?
That is a very difficult question to answer, as there is no cookie-cutter patient or treatment plan. Most patients should notice a difference such as better sleep within a few treatments, but that is a question that can only be answered after a specific diagnosis has been made. For more severe symptoms it could take a couple months for symptoms to dissipate.
How often do patients have to visit?
The length of treatment plans is dependent on many factors. The health history of the patient, the symptoms being treated, the intensity and chronicity of symptoms must all be taken into consideration. After a thorough intake assessment and physical exam, a licensed acupuncturist will provide a patient with a diagnosis. Once a diagnosis is communicated with the patient and agreed upon, a treatment plan is made which is customized for that patient. Treatments could range from once per week, to three or four times, depending on the patient.
What symptoms cannot be treated by acupuncture?
A common symptom of menopause that cannot be treated by acupuncture alone is bone loss. Hormonal changes can disrupt the body’s natural bone building process. This is why it’s important that women control risk factors early. You want to ensure that you are consuming the proper nutrients, including Vitamin K and Vitamin D.
Daily weight bearing exercises are also important. Walking and/or weight training 20 minutes a day can help to reduce the speed of bone loss.
How can patients maximize the benefits of acupuncture during treatment and afterwards?
Firstly, it is important to stick with your treatment plan. Your health care provider will go over a treatment plan with you at the first treatment; this may include weekly or biweekly treatments.
Proper hydration is important especially after treatment as treatment itself can be dehydrating. Drink lots of water and refrain from coffee or alcohol after treatment as those can dehydrate your system.
Your practitioner may also recommend that you refrain from eating certain foods like greasy foods or hot energy foods such as red meat and alcohol. The opposite may hold true for some, where cold foods such as fruit or ice cream may need to be reduced.
Lastly, post-treatment you should rest, or just take it easy. I would not recommend a vigorous workout within the first few hours. For new patients or patients who have not had acupuncture in the past, I would recommend staying away from intense activity for 24 hours. Resting allows the restoration of balance to continue after your treatment.
Dr. Nekessa Remy is the owner of Mississauga’s The Chiropractic Office, a comprehensive injury management clinic focused on sports related injuries and women’s health issues. As a licensed chiropractor and Medical Acupuncturist, Dr. Remy has developed an approach to injury management that is based on current research and measurable patient outcomes. She also runs a practice in downtown Toronto at Integra Health Centre where she works with other leaders in the healthcare profession. Find Dr. Remy at her site on Twitter and on Instagram.