Electro-acupuncture helps breast cancer survivors who experience hot flashes during night to sleep peacefully. Proper sleep is required for women with breast cancer and study shows that 30% to 40% women suffer constant hot flashes (nocturnal hot flashes are the most problematic that contributes to poor sleep).
Hot flashes increases the levels of pain, fatigue, depression and anxiety that lead to sleep disturbances.
A new study shows that electro-acupuncture may be effective in providing some relief. The study is published Menopause, the journal of The North American Menopause Society (NAMS).
Researchers analyzed data from a randomized, controlled trial involving 58 breast cancer survivors experiencing bothersome hot flashes. They compared the benefits of using electro-acupuncture (the application of a pulsating electric current) to prescribing gabapentin, an anti-seizure medication frequently prescribed to treat sleep disturbances related to hot flashes.
The study showed electro-acupuncture to be comparable to, if not better than, gabapentin in helping to reduce hot flash severity and frequency and improving overall sleep quality (including falling asleep faster and fewer sleep disruptions).
Although it is not exactly understood how acupuncture affects sleep, it has been shown to affect a number of neurotransmitters associated with sleep, such as serotonin and melatonin.
Although electro-acupuncture produced significant sleep improvements, researchers noted that sleep quality for the participants was still not as good as it should be, implying that more research is necessary to explore possible combinations of pharmacologic and nonpharmacologic treatments.
"This study shows that, for women who need or choose to avoid medications, electro-acupuncture may be an option because it has minimal risks, but blinded controlled trials are needed," says Dr. JoAnn Pinkerton, NAMS executive director.