2 Studies Focus on Methods to Lower Hot Flashes, Night Sweats

Dorian Martin Health Guide
  • Are you experiencing hot flashes or night sweats in conjunction during your menopausal transition? If so, you may be interested in two new studies that look at these symptoms in relation to relaxation techniques and anti-depressants.

    Hot Flashes and Applied Relaxation Techniques

    A study out of Sweden added to the literature that suggests that the use of relaxation method can ease hot flashes in women who have gone through menopause. The study involved 60 healthy women who were randomly assigned to two groups over a three-month period. Most of these women were 50 years old and above and had not had their menstrual period for a year or more. However, they all were still experienced hot flashes and night sweats.

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    The first group was taught to use techniques from applied relaxation method, which were developed in Sweden in the 1980s and is based on cognitive behavioral therapy. These techniques included focused breathing and easing muscle tensions prior to and during hot flashes. The other group did not receive a treatment.

    The participants in the treatment group went through a multi-stage process to learn how to do the applied relaxation method. First of all, these participants were observed during the first week of the study and asked to record what they experienced prior to and during a hot flash or other symptom of menopause. These women then were asked to spend 15 minutes each day doing exercises that tensed and relaxed all the muscles in their body. They eventually were able to decrease the time that they needed to relax through doing controlled breathing and not tensing muscles.  The participants eventually were assigned to practice the relaxation techniques that they had learned 20 times daily during 30-second blocks. The researchers finally asked this group of participants to use the breathing and relaxation techniques when having a hot flash.

    So did this technique work? The researchers’ analysis found that all participants had approximately 10 hot flashes daily when the study started. Three months later, the applied relaxation group experienced approximately four hot flashes daily while the other group had eight. The researchers also found that the applied relaxation group reported improved quality of life in relation to sleeping and pain.

    The researchers believe that a larger controlled trial needs to be done that looks at the effect of relaxation techniques and physical exercise on hot flashes. However, they also cautioned that relaxation techniques may not be appropriate for women who have severe depression or anxiety since these women could actually become tenser during the guided relaxation techniques.

    Hot Flashes and Antidepressants

    A new study out of Harvard found that hot flashes and night sweats can actually reemerge in some women when they stop taking antidepressants that have prescribed for menopausal symptoms.  The researchers focused on escitalopram, which is sold under the brand name Lexapro. While this medication isn’t approved for treating menopause symptoms, some studies have suggested that this medication may reduce the number and intensity of hot flashes in some women. Therefore, some doctors prescribe this medication for women who are going through the menopausal transition.

  • The researchers analyzed data from 76 women in a 200-member study who were taking between 10-20 milligrams daily of Lexapro over an eight-week period. This subgroup of women experienced at least a 20- percent drop in the number of hot flashes they had while taking the drug.  At the end of a two-month period, the women stopped taking the antidepressant under the researchers’ supervision so their menopausal symptoms could be tracked for a three-work period and withdrawal symptoms could also be avoided.

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    The researchers found that approximately 33 percent of the women who had seen an improvement in their menopausal symptoms while on the drugs started experiencing an increase in hot flashes and night sweats once they went off the antidepressants. Furthermore, among the 49 women who had described benefits on three specific measures – severity, number and how much they were bothered by the symptom – while on the antidepressant, 44 percent relapsed to where they experienced earlier symptoms after being off the antidepressant for three weeks. Women who didn’t experience a relapse were found to have a decrease in symptoms from 9.5 a day prior to the treatment to 4.4 daily when they had been off the drug for three weeks. The researchers also found that participants who had insomnia prior to taking the antidepressant or who didn’t benefit significantly from the antidepressant were more likely to suffer relapses.

    If you’re interested in either of these treatment options for hot flashes or night sweats, I’d encourage you to talk to your doctor, who can provide you with a prescription and possibly training on how to do the guided relaxation method.

    Primary Sources for This Sharepost:

    Joffe, H. et al. (2012). Relapse of vasomotor symptoms after discontinuation of the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor escitalopram: results from the Menopause Strategies: Finding Lasting Answers for Symptoms and Health Research Network. Menopause journal.

    Lindh-Åstrand, L. & Nedstrand, E. (2012). Effects of applied relaxation on vasomotor symptoms in postmenopausal women: a randomized controlled trial. Menopause journal.

Published On: December 04, 2012