Sept. 13, 2006 -- Easing stress through meditation may help turn down the heat of hot flashes caused by menopause.
A small new study shows that menopausal women who participated in a stress reduction program that included meditation experienced significant relief from hot flashes and improved their quality of life.
Hot flashes and night sweats affect most women at some point during menopause. Researchers say that in many cases, women regard them as little more than a nuisance. However, 10% to 20% report experiencing hot flashes that cause considerable distress and seriously disrupt their lives.
Alternative Treatment for Hot Flashes
About one-third of menopausal women seek treatment for hot flashes.
Until recently, the standard treatment was hormone replacement therapy (HRT). But in the wake of studies suggesting HRT can raise the risk of and in some women, it is only recommended for short-term use, and alternative therapies are becoming increasingly popular.
In the study, published in Menopause: The Journal of the North American Menopause Society, researchers evaluated the effects of a mindfulness-based stress reduction program on hot flash severity and quality of life in 15 menopausal women (average age: 53.6) experiencing an average of at least seven moderate to severe hot flashes per day.
The women kept a diary of their hot flashes during the seven-week stress-reduction program and the four weeks immediately after.
The stress-reduction program consisted of eight weekly 2 1/2 hour classes over seven weeks, during which the women received training in the following:
- Body scan meditation: a gradual moving of attention over the body from feet to head to bring awareness of bodily sensations, done while lying on the back.
- Sitting meditation: focusing on the flow of breathing and other bodily sensations, thoughts, and emotions while sitting upright.
- Mindful stretching: exercises designed to develop awareness during movement.
The women also received two guided meditation compact discs to practice at home for 45 minutes, six days a week.
Meditation Eases Menopausal Symptoms
The frequency of the women's hot flashes decreased by an average of 39%, the study found.
In addition, the average severity of the hot flashes decreased 40% over the course of the 11-week study.
A 28% improvement was also seen in overall quality of life, with most women saying they were better able to cope with their hot flashes after the stress-reduction program.
Researcher James Carmody, PhD, of the University of Massachusetts Medical School, and colleagues say the results of this small study suggest mindfulness-based stress-reduction programs that include meditation may be feasible and effective in managing menopausal symptoms, and warrant further study.