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Acupuncture and Shingles

All about Treatment of Shingles with Acupuncture and Herbs

Acupuncture, a form of traditional Chinese medicine, uses a holistic approach to improve the overall health and wellbeing of a person. Known for its benefit in the alleviation of neuropathic pain; a host of health conditions can be treated with acupuncture including shingles, depression, anxiety, neck and back pain. Here are a few facts you need to know about the treatment of shingles with acupuncture and herbs.

Shingles – Causes and risk factors

Shingles is caused by the virus varicella-zoster, which is the same virus that causes chickenpox. Anyone who has ever had chickenpox can develop shingles at any point in life. The virus lies inactive for years in nerve tissue near the spinal cord and brain. Years later, sometimes decades, the virus may reactivate as shingles. Shingles is not a life-threatening health condition, but it causes severe pain along with rashes. The cause of reactivation of the virus is not clear, however lowered immunity may be one of the reasons. Shingles is often more common in the elderly, as well as people with weakened immune systems.

Shingles – Symptoms and Management

Shingles can appear anywhere in your body. More often, it appears as a single stripe of blisters that wraps around one side of your torso. The signs and symptoms may include intense pain, burning, numbness, rashes, fluid-filled blisters that break open and crust over, and itching. Additionally, some people may experience fever, fatigue, and headache and may be sensitive to light. Complications of shingles include postherpetic neuralgia, vision loss, neurological problems and skin infections. Postherpetic neuralgia (PHN), the pain associated with shingles, can continue long after the blisters have cleared. This is because damaged nerve fibers send exaggerated and confusing messages of pain from your skin to your brain. PHN adversely impacts patients’ daily activities, quality of life, general and psychological health, and the social and economic well-being.

How Does Acupuncture Help?

Acupuncture is a technique that stimulates the body at specific acupuncture points to balance the flow of energy or life force, known as qi. An acupuncturist decides the treatment plan based on the symptoms and constitution of the patients. If a patient has Yin deficiency with a lot of internal heat, Shingles symptoms can be much worse than people without so much heat. By insertion of very thin needles at strategic acupuncture points, the practitioner aims to rebalance the Yin and Yang, so the nervous system can get rid of inflammation and pain. Modern medicine believes that this stimulation enhances our body’s natural painkillers. Moxibustion, another form of traditional Chinese medicine that involves burning the herb Mugwort near the skin or on a medium on the skin, is another modality with good results in treating shingles with acupuncture and herbs.

Do Research Studies Support Acupuncture to treat singles?

A review study published in the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI)compared Nine English and Chinese databases and evaluated randomized controlled trials in patients with shingles induced nerve pain with the combination of acupuncture plus moxibustion method. 945 participants were included. The conclusion is pain intensity was lower among those who received acupuncture plus moxibustion compared with pharmacotherapy. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28338265)

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