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Could Chronic Pain Treatment Help Hot Flushes?

It is estimated that from 30-80% of menopausal women suffer, so solutions are welcome. Hormone balance is key but could a new treatment help too?


What causes your flushes is still largely individual and with no real definitive answer but women worldwide are always looking for something that will help. You will know if you have had one, but just in case they are defined as a sudden feeling of heat or warmth starting in the face and extending to the neck and chest area. Often accompanied by a red face and profuse sweating they can last anywhere from one to 10 minutes and vary in strength and frequency.

A new nerve block treatment trialled in the USA claims that women in the study had half as many hot flashes after receiving a non-hormonal chronic pain treatment. Presented at the ANESTHESIOLOGYTM 2013 annual meeting, it works by interrupting the area of the brain that regulates body temperature, reducing moderate-to-severe hot flashes and alleviating depression in menopausal women, breast cancer patients and women in surgical menopause through hysterectomy. This was a small sample comprising a randomized, controlled study which included 40 patients between 30 and 65 years old who experienced at least 25 hot flashes per week.

David R. Walega, M.D., chief of the Division of Pain Medicine, and program director of the Multidisciplinary Pain Medicine Fellowship Department of Anaesthesiology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago said. “This is the first effective, non-hormonal treatment for hot flashes, which for many women have a serious negative effect on their lives. This treatment will also help breast cancer patients who suffer from hot flashes as a side effect of their treatments or medication. Some breast cancer patients stop taking their medication (tamoxifen) because of hot flashes.” The treatment involves receiving an injection in the neck of a stellate ganglion blockade (SGB) together with a local anaesthetic. The patients recorded the daily number of hot flashes in a journal and were followed for six months. They found that moderate to severe hot flashes decreased 50 percent for women who received the SGB injection, together with a 30 percent decrease in depression and a 10 percent improvement in verbal learning. These findings were important as women often experience loss of memory and cognition at menopause.

What Can You Do Now?

As this is being trialled in the US general application is some way off, but some simple tips to help in the meantime are:

1. Find your triggers. These can be items such as alcohol and caffeine and certainly stress can impact your hormone balance and that can increase flushes.

2. Check your hormones as some women respond too progesterone but others (especially those who have been on HRT or had a hysterectomy) need a combination cream with a little oestrogen added.

3. Keep cool with loose clothing, preferably layers that can be removed at a flush and made of natural fibres and it may be old fashioned but carry a fan = it is a great talking point!