About the only good thing you can say about this past winter is at least you got to wear all your cute cashmere and wool sweaters. Unless, of course, you are a menopausal woman. Yes, I said it, the ‘M’ word. In our 20s we avoided the ‘M’ word so as not to scare off potential suitors. But for women of a certain age, the ‘M’ word means a totally different thing. And this one does not result in bridal showers or bachelorette parties.

So let’s talk menopause. As a woman approaching her mid-50s, I am all too familiar with the unpleasant sensation of body temperature moving from ice cold to sweltering in 60 seconds or less. Not only do you feel hot, you look hot (and not in a good way). Nothing says pretty like beads of sweat on your upper lip, right? Hot flashes not your problem? Maybe it’s night sweats. Who hasn’t gone to bed in PJs only to perform a strip tease in the middle of the night? And do we need to talk about how confused your husband is when he realizes your nakedness is totally unrelated to him?

So, what can you do? If your symptoms are mild to moderate, not much. Most doctors encourage you to deal with it the best you can. Watch your diet, caffeine and alcohol intake. Medication usually is reserved for those with severe symptoms. Since I fall into the first category, I was ‘just dealing with it’ until I stumbled upon an article that seemed to imply acupuncture could help with menopause.

You should know that I love Western medicine. I love doctors, hospitals and pharmaceuticals. So I have always been suspect of anyone delivering medical care who is not wearing a white coat. But several years ago, a bad back and minimal relief from pain killers and physical therapy landed me in the office of licensed acupuncturist Christine Kleinschmidt, owner of Well Body Clinic in Maplewood. And much to my surprise, after a few sessions, my back felt better. I tried acupuncture again, when my migraines became more frequent and intense.

And even though I still get those nasty headaches, they don’t come as often, nor are they as intense. So off to Christine’s office I went to try to get my hot flashes under control. Christine had me stick out my tongue, felt my pulse, asked me a variety of questions and then strategically placed needles on my shins, hands and head. The needles do not hurt. Let me repeat that: the needles do not hurt. Christine then turned on some Zen-sounding music and I laid there and let the needles work their magic. I had five treatments over six weeks, and even as the temperature rises in St. Louis, I am happy to report my hot flashes have diminished.

Here’s why. There is something called qi, or energy, that gets clogged up. Acupuncture helps your qi. I have no idea what that means, but does it really matter as long as it works? There have been a number of studies to see if acupuncture is effective on menopause-related symptoms, and the jury is out: some indicate it helps, others that it makes no difference. So, were my hot flashes mitigated through acupuncture or the placebo effect? Who knows? Who cares? Now when I discuss my hotness it will be related to my looks, and that is a good thing.

By Patty Hannum
Photo by Bill Barrett