Cool, Calm and Collected with Menopause

Hot flashes in postmenopausal women decrease after learning relaxation technique

(RxWiki News) Relax. It can help reduce your troubles, even with menopause.

Middle-aged women who learned to chill out cut the number of hot flashes they had from menopause by half, according to a new study.

Researchers say the relaxation technique may be "an appropriate and safe alternative therapy for reducing moderate to severe hot flashes in healthy postmenopausal women."

"Ask your OB/Gyn about natural treatments for hot flashes."

Researchers, led by Lotta Lindh-Astrand, RN, PhD, and Elizabeth Nedstrand, MD, PhD, from the Division of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Linkoping University in Sweden, aimed to see how applied relaxation worked in helping women deal with menopause.

Applied relaxation involves deep breathing techniques and engaging the different muscle groups in the body to relax. It is used most often to help with panic disorders, anxiety, depression and certain phobias.

The study included 60 healthy women who were past menopause and had at least seven hot flashes a day. Researchers excluded women who exercised more than two hours a week or had hormone therapy.

The women were divided into one of two groups, one which did applied relaxation exercises and the other received no treatment at all.

Participants in the relaxation group attended 10 hourly group sessions for three months. Sessions included lectures on menopause and how applied relaxation works.

The other group was offered the relaxation program after completing the study. Both groups kept up with their treatments for three months and were instructed to keep track of the number of hot flashes they have.

Researchers followed up with the participants at the end of the 12 weeks. They measured patients' cortisol levels, which are linked with stress, in participants' saliva three times over the next six months.

They found women doing the relaxation exercises dropped from having more than nine hot flashes a day to about four on average. Those in the other group went from almost 10 hot flashes to a little less than eight in the same time frame.

Women also reported sleeping better and improved their concentration and level of anxiety.

“The study confirms that applied relaxation can help women with menopausal troubles,” Dr. Nedstrand said in a press release.

"My hope is women can be offered this treatment in primary care and from private health care providers."

Cortisol levels in both groups did not change after the program. Researchers say this may be because the cortisol levels were normal at the start of the study and the relaxation technique may not affect cortisol at all.

The authors note their results may not represent whether the therapy would work for the population at large since the women were recruited through advertisements.

The study was published November 14 in the journal Menopause. The County Council of Ostergotland by the Swedish Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics funded the study. The authors do not report any conflicts of interest.

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Review Date: 
November 26, 2012