When I was on a hormone block I suffered from many side effects, among them were the classical hot flashes. Some days I found that I would have to change shirts three to four times a day; Costco loved me because I eventually became their highest volume laundry detergent purchaser.

One of my doctors suggested that I participate in a clinical trial that was actively recruiting men suffering with hot flashes. The trial tested a protocol using acupuncture to reduce both the number of and the intensity of hot flashes resulting from a hormone blockade.

I participated in the trial and found that by the trial’s end, my hot flashes had been reduced by about 30% and there intensity had significantly decreased. Costco objected, but I was pleased.

When I share my experience in the trial, some men have reported they could not consider acupuncture because they were concerned about having needles stuck into them. I explained that usually you do not feel the needles, there is an occasional exception, but the rule is that acupuncture is painless.

Anna Enblom, a physiotherapist and doctoral candidate at the Department of Medicine and Health Sciences at Linköping University and the Vårdal Institute in Sweden, carried out four studies that are now being reported in her doctoral dissertation. She found that acupuncture works, but it works equally well with or without needle penetration.

She drew this conclusion from a treatment study she conducted involving cancer survivors suffering from nausea during radiotherapy. Her study used 215 patients who were undergoing radiation treatment in the abdomen or pelvic region.

The participants were chosen by lot to one of these two acupuncture types. One hundred and nine (109) subjects received traditional acupuncture including needles that penetrated the skin. The needles were then twisted until a certain ‘needle sensation’ arises. The other one hundred and six (106) subjects received a simulated acupuncture instead, with a telescopic, blunt placebo needle that merely touches the skin. Both groups received treatment two to three times a week over a five-week period.

Ninety-five percent (95%) of the subjects in both groups felt that the acupuncture treatment had helped relieve nausea, and 67 percent had experienced other positive effects such as improved sleep, brighter mood, and less pain. There were no reported differences between the two groups.

Enblom also conducted a separate study that involved a group of subjects that received only ordinary medical treatment for nausea (medication), but not acupuncture. In that group, only 37 percent of the nauseous patients experienced any relief.

The subjects who received traditional or simulated acupuncture felt considerably better than the group that had only received care following ordinary routines. The difference, 37 percent compared with 63 percent of nauseous patients, is statistically significant. On the other hand, there was no difference between the two acupuncture groups.
Anna Enblom said, “It is now essential to continue to study what parts of the procedure surrounding acupuncture that reduce nausea and vomiting in order to be able to make use of this in care during radiation treatment”.

Additionally, further study evaluating nontraditional acupuncture for men with hot flashes might be what the doctor ordered. In the mean time if you are suffering from hot flashes try and go to your neighborhood acupuncture center for treatment. Many medical insurance companys either cover the cost or have special programs that partially subsidies the treatment.

Joel T Nowak MA, MSW