Reflexology is an ancient practice that consists of applying pressure to certain points of the body, most commonly the feet.
Those areas are believed to correspond with various organs and systems throughout the body. Applied pressure is said to trigger the nervous system to bring healing to the corresponding body areas, and promote relaxation.
Studies have shown that foot reflexology can decrease the severity of depression and vasomotor symptoms, like hot flashes.1,2 It also strengthens the immune system, helping to improve overall health of women passing through menopause.3
Acupuncture is similar to reflexology, with the exception that the specific skin points are stimulated via thin needles.
It has traditionally been used in Chinese medicine for pain relief. Applying needles to skin surface throughout the body is said to stimulate the nervous system to act on the corresponding areas and promote healing.
In terms of its benefits for menopausal women, it has been shown in scientific studies that acupuncture is effective for alleviating insomnia, anxiety, depression, allergies, hot flashes, and more.4,5,6 It can also improve women's quality of life.
Another safe and effective alternative therapy for menopause worth considering is massage therapy.
When used as a therapeutic tool, massage works by stimulating blood and lymph circulation throughout the body and stimulating nervous system receptors, thus helping to relax muscle tissues, reduce inflammation, and decrease pain.
Aside from being highly relaxing, massage therapy can alleviate various midlife discomforts, including muscle weakness, sleep disorders, depression, anxiety, hot flashes, painful sex, urinary symptoms, among others.7,8,9
Aromatherapy is another ancient practice consisting of the use of essential oils extracted from plants to promote wellness.
When inhaled, essential oils are believed to act on nose smell receptors, stimulating the nervous system, particularly the areas of the brain that control emotions. This not only triggers emotional responses, but also affects various physiological functions.
Aromatherapy can be used on its own or during a massage therapy session for compound effects. As an alternative therapy for menopause, it has shown to alleviate depression, anxiety, sleep issues, headaches, knee pain, and more.10,11,12
Meditation & Breath Work
A list of body and mind practices for menopause symptoms would not be complete without meditation and breath work.
While there are many different types of meditation and conscious breathing techniques, in their simplest forms, they encourage being mindful of the present moment, observing one's thoughts, and paying attention to bodily sensations.
Besides relieving menopause stress, meditation can offer other evidence-based benefits to middle-aged women. It improves sleep quality, mood swings, hot flashes, night sweats, irritability, panic attacks, depression, and more.13,14,15
Body and mind practices for menopause can be an invaluable tool for middle-aged women, especially those aiming to manage their discomforts naturally. As science continues to validate their safety and long-standing traditional uses, their popularity is expected to spread even further. Some of the most popular evidence-backed alternative therapies for menopause symptoms relief include foot reflexology, acupuncture, massage therapy, meditation, conscious breathing, and aromatherapy. They have been shown to alleviate a wide range of midlife symptoms, from hot flashes, painful sex, and allergies to depression, irritability, and mood swings. When enjoyed regularly, such natural therapies can decrease the need for pharmacological interventions and allow women to restore their quality of life.
- Evidence Based Complementary Alternative Medicine. (2008). Aromatherapy Massage Affects Menopausal Symptoms in Korean Climacteric Women: A Pilot-Controlled Clinical Trial. Retrieved April 15, 2021 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2529395/
- Harvard Health Publishing. (2020). Can acupuncture help my menopause symptoms? Retrieved April 15, 2021 from https://www.health.harvard.edu/womens-health/can-acupuncture-help-my-menopause-symptoms
- Johns Hopkins Medicine. (n.d.). Aromatherapy: Do Essential Oils Really Work? Retrieved April 15, 2021 from https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/aromatherapy-do-essential-oils-really-work
- Maturitas. (2011). Mind-body Therapies for Menopausal Symptoms: A systematic Review. Retrieved April 15, 2021 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3031101/
- Mayo Clinic. (2021). Acupuncture. Retrieved April 15, 2021 from https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/acupuncture/about/pac-20392763
- Mayo Clinic. (2019). Mindfulness may ease menopausal symptoms. Retrieved April 15, 2021 from https://newsnetwork.mayoclinic.org/discussion/mindfulness-may-ease-menopausal-symptoms/
- Mayo Clinic. (2020). What is reflexology? Can it relieve stress? Retrieved April 15, 2021 from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/consumer-health/expert-answers/what-is-reflexology/faq-20058139
- Menopause. (2019). Cognitive behavior therapy for menopausal symptoms (CBT-Meno): a randomized controlled trial. Retrieved April 15, 2021 from https://journals.lww.com/menopausejournal/Abstract/2019/09000/Cognitive_behavior_therapy_for_menopausal_symptoms.6.aspx
- The North American Menopause Society. (n.d.). What You Should Know About Relaxation Techniques for Hot Flashes. Retrieved April 15, 2021 from https://www.menopause.org/docs/default-document-library/tfprelax_eng.pdf?sfvrsn=0
- University of Minnesota. (n.d.). How Does Massage Work? Retrieved April 15, 2021 from https://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/explore-healing-practices/massage-therapy/how-does-massage-work
- Complementary Therapies in Medicine. (2019). The effects of foot reflexology on depression during menopause: A randomized controlled clinical trial. Retrieved April 15, 2021 from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S096522991930281X
- Journal of Korean Academy of Nursing. (2006). Effect of Self-Foot Reflexology Massage on Depression, Stress Responses and Immune Functions of Middle-Aged Women. Retrieved April 15, 2021 from https://jkan.or.kr/DOIx.php?id=10.4040/jkan.2006.36.1.179
- Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice (2016). The effect of foot reflexology applied to women aged between 40 and 60 on vasomotor complaints and quality of life. Retrieved April 15, 2021 from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27502805/
- Menopause (2017). Acupuncture in Menopause (AIM) Study: A Pragmatic, Randomized Controlled Trial. Retrieved April 15, 2021 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4874921/
- Holistic Nursing Practice. (2003). Can acupuncture ease the symptoms of menopause? Retrieved April 15, 2021 from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/14650571/
- Medical Acupuncture. (2013). Acupuncture for Treating Anxiety and Depression in Women: A Clinical Systematic Review. Retrieved April 15, 2021 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3689180/
- Clinics. (2011). Effect of massage in postmenopausal women with insomnia - A pilot study. Retrieved April 15, 2021 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3059875/
- Sleep Science. (2014). The beneficial effects of massage therapy for insomnia in postmenopausal women. Retrieved April 15, 2021 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4521661/
- Journal of Nursing and Health Science. (2018). Massage Therapy for Alleviating Menopausal Transitional Symptoms among Women employed at Suez Canal University Hospital. Retrieved April 15, 2021 from https://www.iosrjournals.org/iosr-jnhs/papers/vol7-issue1/Version-1/E0701012333.pdf
- Menopause. (2012). Effect of aromatherapy massage on menopausal symptoms: a randomized placebo-controlled clinical trial. Retrieved April 15, 2021 from https://sci.bban.top/pdf/10.1097/gme.0b013e318248ea16.pdf#page=1&zoom=auto,-18,810
- The Journal of Nurse Practitioners. (2020). The Effects of Inhalation Lavender Aromatherapy on Postmenopausal Women's Depression and Anxiety: A Randomized Clinical Trial. Retrieved April 15, 2021 from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1555415520302488
- Medicine. (2018). Aromatherapy for managing menopausal symptoms. Retrieved April 15, 2021 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5944692/
- Advances in Integrative Medicine. (2020). Meditation as an approach to lessen menopausal symptoms and insomnia in working women undergoing the menopausal transition period: A randomized controlled trial. Retrieved April 15, 2021 from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S2212958820301567
- Menopause. (2011). Menopause Training for Coping with Hot Flashes: Results of a Randomized Trial. Retrieved April 15, 2021 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3123409/
- Climacteric. (2017). Use of mindfulness, meditation and relaxation to treat vasomotor symptoms. Retrieved April 15, 2021 from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28286985/