Acupuncture and Shiatsu – could they help with the menopause?
According to the classical Chinese texts, the menopause is the last “Gateway of Change”, a time when we can positively or negatively affect our general health, constitution and development.
So what are the Gateways of Change and how can we maintain our health during these times? To answer the first question, Gateways of Change are periods in our lives of intense hormonal activity and comprise of the following life events:
- Birth and perinatal period
- Beginning of full sexual activity ( ‘marriage in the oriental texts! )
- Pregnancy and childbirth
In his book “Live well, Live long “ Peter Deadman quotes Dr Shen, one of the modern masters of traditional Chinese medicine, explaining that the “life gateways” are periods in our lives marked by rapid changes especially with hormones when behaviour patterns can harm or help the body and have a greater impact on our health.
Great care should be taken to maintain our health and well-being at these times.
The age of around 49 to 50 is a natural turning-point for us when there is a weakening of kidney yin. Menopause is a time when many women become “yin deficient”, which means that the cooling, moistening and calming aspects of their physiology are weakened : as a result they often get hot, irritable and anxious, find sleeping more difficult and may experience low libido, aching joints, palpitations, dizziness and mood swings.
To maintain our health at these times, we need to conserve kidney yin essence through:
- Healthy diet
- Acupuncture and Shiatsu
- Breathing exercises which promote or increase kidney yin or Qi ( energy )
- Moderate lifestyle and intake of alcohol
On the other hand we can deplete it by late nights, overwork, emotional stress, and over-indulgence in alcohol. The function of kidney yin is to nourish, soothe and calm the system and promote relaxation. To get through “The Change” more smoothly it is essential for us to modify our lifestyle : we simply can’t do what we used to do and we need to slow down the pace of living.
The best ways of doing this include :-
- Getting enough rest : early nights ( before midnight for best quality sleep ) and “power naps” especially help with this. To ensure a good night’s sleep devices such as phones, laptops and i-pads should be turned off at least an hour before bed as they stimulate the brain and keep energy up in the head.
- Cutting down on alcohol consumption ( yes, daily intake of wine will make your hot flushes/night sweats worse! ) and on stimulants such as caffeine, ginseng and guarana, will prevent kidney energy from becoming depleted.
- Drinking plenty of fresh water and good-quality green tea is also good for kidney energy.
- Regular exercise ( taking care to avoid over-exertion )
- Deep-breathing techniques before bed.
Benefits and Effectiveness of Acupuncture and Shiatsu
It is important to address lifestyle changes during the menopause to allow the change to occur naturally and to decrease the ill-effects of the lessening of kidney yin.
Chinese medicine views the menopause as a natural phase we go through and the signs and symptoms of menopause can be greatly reduced by Acupuncture and Shiatsu.
Such signs and symptoms include but are not limited to :-
- Hot flushes
- Mood swings
- Insomnia and sleep problems
- Fatigue and feelings of exhaustion
- Back pain and osteoporosis
- Vaginal discharge and dryness
- Dry hair, skin and nails
- Inability to relax
- Lack of concentration and poor memory
What does a treatment session of Acupuncture and Shiatsu involve?
It is claimed that Acupuncture and Shiatsu treat the basic causes and effects of the menopause very effectively by bringing the body into balance naturally.
If the yin and yang in the body are thereby brought into harmony and the yin is nourished, the ability to relax, sleep fully and concentrate properly is restored and maintained.
Acupuncture and Shiatsu nourish the kidney yin, thus cooling and moistening the body and reducing night sweats and flushing . The treatment also moves stagnation of Qi (energy) which can cause muscle aches and emotional depression.
In Acupuncture, fine needles are gently inserted into established points to increase kidney energy : the needles are of course pre-sterilised and disposable. It is most effective in reducing hot flushes and palpitations and in aiding relaxation and sleep patterns.
Shiatsu is as effective as Acupuncture for those who do not relish the thought of needles ( even with gentle modern techniques ). Sometimes referred to as “acupressure”, It uses thumbs, elbows and finger-pressure along meridians ( channels of energy in the body ) and is performed through loose-fitting clothing : it is especially effective for muscle aches.
Whom will Acupunture and Shiatsu benefit most?
Those of us most at risk of suffering worse menopausal symptoms during this period are the ones that are always “on the go”. For example, stress by work and “overwork”, working out with targets at the gym, rushing meals and multi-tasking with family to get everything accomplished can put a strain on our system. The pace of modern life sometimes creates an expectation and feeling that we can do everything and become “superwomen”, but this often comes at a cost.
What does an acupuncture/shiatsu session involve? Firstly, each session should be tailor-made according to the clients needs. The tongue and pulse are examined to see where imbalance resides in the particular individual and a case-history is taken. Needle points are chosen to best address this and advice is given in the session on lifestyle patterns and diet.
Acupuncture and Shiatsu are increasingly recognised as thoroughly relaxing and successful treatments for menopause and women’s conditions generally, and have made a significant difference to the happiness and well-being of countless women. To experience these ancient techniques, book taster sessions at the Lifehouse.
Elise Johnson is the Shiatsu and Acupuncture Practitioner at the Lifehouse Spa, Thorpe-Le-Soken, Essex