Objectives: The aim of this study was to evaluate the effects of local thermal therapy with far-infrared rays (FIR) on menopausal symptoms and bone mineral density (BMD) in postmenopausal women.
Subjects and methods: A prospective randomized, controlled trial was conducted in female volunteers from communities in Northern Taiwan. The intervention group (n=22) received local thermal therapy with the help of FIR from an FIR emitter, for approximately 20 minutes per day, twice a week, for 20 sessions. They received the therapy on their backs while lying in a supine position. The control group (n=21) received no treatment. The primary outcome was the change in the Perceived Perimenopausal Disturbances Scale, designed for the measurement of menopause-related symptoms (MRS) before and after completion of treatment in a 10-week period. Secondary outcome parameters included serum levels of estradiol (E2) with osteocalcin (OC), and calcaneal BMD by quantitative ultrasound.
Results: After 10 weeks of intervention, MRS determined by the scale decreased in mean total scores and mean scores for vasomotor, musculoskeletal, urologic, reproductive, and psychologic domains (p<0.05), except for reproductive (sexuality-related) symptoms. In the control group, mean total scores and scores of each domain had no significant difference between baseline and follow-up examination after 10 weeks. There was no significant difference between the quantitative ultrasound parameters in the calcaneus, serum E2, and OC levels either at the baseline or in the changes from the baseline between the intervention and control groups of women (p>0.05).
Conclusions: Local thermal therapy with FIR results in a significant reduction of MRS in postmenopausal women. Serum E2, OC levels, and calcaneal BMD showed no significant changes between the two groups. These results suggest that FIR local thermal therapy may be a potential alternative for the management of postmenopausal symptoms.