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Study Shows Acupuncture Better Than Drugs for Hot Flashes

According to a new study from researchers at the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, acupuncture works as well as a popular prescription drug in combating hot flashes related to breast cancer treatment. The study also found that acupuncture lasted longer and was not associated with the negative side effects linked to the drug.

The results were presented this month at an American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology meeting in Boston.

Acupuncture is a form of traditional Chinese medicine which has been used for over 2,000 years. The therapy involves inserting small needles into the skin to open energy channels and allow energy to flow freely throughout the body. In the Western world acupuncture is most often used to reduce pain or induce anesthesia.

In the study, researchers recruited 47 breast cancer patients suffering from hot flashes and night sweats. The group was divided in half and provided either a daily acupuncture treatment or a prescription drug called Effexor (used to prevention hot flashes and night sweats) for 12 weeks. The women were asked to keep a diary logging the number and severity of hot flashes before, during and after the 12 week treatment period.

Both groups saw a reduction in the severity and frequency of hot flashes while undergoing treatment. However, after the 12 week intervention period the acupuncture treatment group continued to experience the reduction for an additional 10 weeks while those who took the prescription drug only experienced the reduction for an additional 2 weeks.

Not only did the acupuncture benefits last much longer, participants in this group also did not experience any of the side effects associated with Effexor. Common side effects for the drug include nausea, headache, difficulty sleeping, dizziness, increased blood pressure, fatigue and anxiety.

These findings add to the growing body of evidence that highlights the benefits of acupuncture, particularly for cancer patients. Previous research has found that acupuncture can reduce chemotherapy induced nausea as well as post operative pain, and a study published earlier this year in the journal Menopause concluded that acupuncture was also effective in reducing the frequency and severity of menopause related hot flashes.
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