A Chinese medicine technique using a smooth edged instrument to scrape or rub certain areas of the body can alleviate annoying symptoms women experience in the years prior to the menopause, according to a new study.
Perimenopause can begin eight to 10 years before menopause, as estrogen levels fluctuate and start falling but menstrual cycles continue. During this time, and for another year or more after menstruation stops, women may experience hot flashes, insomnia, fatigue, mood swings, forgetfulness, pain, vaginal dryness and pain during sex.
It is estimated that 75 percent to 92 percent of the women go through the perimenopause have at least some of these symptoms, and about 40 per cent find them problematic enough to seek help, the authors of the study write in the journal Menopause.
Gua sha therapy is one of the most widely used techniques in Traditional Chinese Medicine, they add, and it is thought to work by increasing the surface circulation and the production of a antinflammatory effect.
“Gua sha therapy has been widely applied in clinical practice in China,” said co-author, Pei-bei Duan of the Jiangsu Province Hospital of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Nanjing.
Previous studies have found that it can prevent or treat many common and frequently-occurring diseases, such as acute or chronic pain, colds, flu, fever, heatstroke, asthma and emphysema, Duan told Reuters Health by e-mail.
For the study, researchers recruited 80 perimenopausal women symptoms of a clinic in the First Affiliated Hospital of Nanjing University of Chinese Medicine, and randomly divided them into two groups.
One group received only the conventional treatment, in this case, the drinking of a liquid that is derived from traditional Chinese herbs called Qingxin Zishen Tang two times a day. The other group received the same conventional treatment, and weekly 15-minute Gua sha sessions, in which a therapist uses a buffalo horn scraper and a skin lubricant to stimulate “acupoints, which are comparable with the target of acupuncture that focuses on the back, lower limbs and upper limbs over a period of eight weeks.
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Gua sha scraping causes red or purple patches on the skin that usually fade within seven days, the authors note.
After eight weeks, scores on a menopause-specific quality of life questionnaire had improved for both groups of women, but much more for the women in the Gua sha group. They also experienced greater reductions in hot flashes and sweating, insomnia, nervousness, melancholy, fatigue and headaches than the control group will only receive conventional treatment.
The available studies on this topic are few and weak, said Dr. Francesco Cardini, Health and Social Regional Agency of Emilia Romagna in Italy, which was not part of the new study.
“As with other traditional practices, Gua sha treatment, which creates a superficial, temporary lesions of the skin, can not be accepted by women with non-Chinese culture,” Cardini told Reuters Health by e-mail.
“Gua sha therapy for perimenopausal symptoms and was well tolerated by the participants in our research,” Duan said. “Only two, transient and mild side effects were reported and there are no serious side effects have occurred. Both were deemed to be independent of Gua sha. The two cases both had mild dizziness; one was caused by hypoglycemia, because the patient does not eat breakfast, and another was too nervous at the first treatment.”
The long-term benefits of Gua sha therapy are not known, Duan said. Theoretically, women in China have access to this therapy, but only on the large, Traditional Chinese Medicine hospitals.
“Women who live in rural areas have a long way to the cities to the therapy, that is tricky,” Duan said. “If women have access to Gua sha therapy, they should try it.”
In the U.S., some licensed massage therapists offer Gua sha therapy and it is endorsed by celebrities such as Gwyneth Paltrow.