Are chills during menopause as common as heat flashes?
It is not uncommon to hear about women suffering from heat flushes during perimenopause and menopause but chills during menopause effect up to 3 in 4 women during this time. From a western medical perspective, chills during menopause are due to fluctuating hormones causing a dysfunction in the hypothalamus in the brain. This part of the brain, is responsible for temperature regulation and hence can lead to over heating or chills. Even a small drop in estrogen can make the hypothalamus overreact causing temperature fluctuations.
As a general rule of thumb, women will experience heat flashes and chills as opposed to chills only. The chills often come after the heat flash.
Can emotional fluctuations cause chills in menopausal women?
Modern medicine says that chills in menopause are caused by fluctuating hormones effecting the hypothalamus or emotional responses effecting the hypothalamus. Pleasure, rage, aversion and displeasure all can effect the hypothalamus. Chinese medicine says that any emotion to extreme, such as anger, worry and fear creates fire in the body. This “fire” can go upward into the brain/mind affecting the yin which in turn causes the yang to become out of balance and cause cold chills.
Are there any modern pharmaceuticals used to control the chills during menopause?
The drugs used are at best experimental and prescribed out of desperation to try arrest some of the chill symptoms. These chills can be so severe, that they feel it deep into their bones and not even extra blankets will warm them up. Dr Wen Shen, Associate Professor at John Hopkins Medicine at Baltimore says that gabapentin, an anti-seizure drug or oxybutynin, a drug to treat nocturia are used to address the chills symptoms. These drugs influence the hypothalamus explains Dr Shen. The author notes that gabapentin as a side effect causes tiredness, dizziness, dry mouth, nausea, blurred vision and swollen arms and legs. Oxybutynin as a side effect causes intestinal wind, dry eyes, nausea and constipation.
How does Chinese medicine look at chills during menopause?
As mentioned in previous menopause articles by the author, menopause from a Chinese medicine diagnostic perspective is caused by a decline in kidney energy. The kidneys have a yin and yang component, where kidney yin deficiency causes heat and kidney yang deficiency causes cold symptoms. Everyone is uniquely different, so some people might have more predominant kidney yin deficiency and others yang deficiency. This is why some women have predominantly heat flashes, some will have more cold chills and some a mixture of both. A modern era designed empirical Chinese herb formula to treat menopause, Tiao Geng Tang, exemplifies the use of combining yin tonic herbs with yang tonic herbs to address both symptoms of heat flashes and chills simultaneously.
Listen to a radio interview below with Dr Carolyn Eddleston where she discusses acupuncture and it’s role in the management of chills during menopause.
Acupuncture and menopause treatment
Acupuncture is used to tonify the kidney energy as well as regulate the eight extra meridians, the ren and du channels. These channels are for the yin and yang of the body. In addition, acupuncture is used to regulate the chong channel which controls the hormones and menstrual cycle.
The Tung Style acupuncture and menopause treatment
Master Tung style acupuncture has been passed down from a family lineage and this knowledge was then passed onto his students. It involves different acupuncture points from the standard 14 meridian points. For example, there are some unique acupuncture points known as the three sisters on the thigh, that address menopause symptoms as well as many other gynecological problems. Heiko Lade of The Acupuncture Clinic in Hastings, Kane Monrad of Connect Therapies in Hamilton and Jason Bei in Kapiti all use the Tung style of acupuncture.