Acupuncture treats Post-herpetic Neuralgia pain
The pain of post-herpetic neuralgia, a pain syndrome caused by an outbreak of shingles (Herpes Zoster), is described in no uncertain turns: It’s excruciating. shingles outbreaks can affect any area of the body from the face down following the body’s dermatomes. And it really hurts. The pain is typically burning in nature, and has been known to interrupt sleep and interfere with activities of daily life.
Good news – Acupuncture can treat the pain of post-herpetic neuralgia. A five-year long study of 189 patients reported in the British Medical Journal showed that 84% of patients with post-herpetic neuralgia treated with acupuncture had no pain at the site of shingles outbreak after treatment. In the same study, only 13% showed varying levels of improvement and 3% showed none. The researchers believe that acupuncture blocked the pain by releasing various endorphins and neurotransmitters.
What is Post-herpetic Neuralgia?
Post-herpetic neuralgia is a painful condition that affects nerves and skin. Post-herpetic neuralgia often follows an outbreak of shingles, which is caused by a dormant chickenpox infection becoming active again. While most shingles outbreaks clear up within a few weeks, some people experience pain long after the rash and vesicles (blisters) have disappeared. When the pain persists, that pain is called post-herpetic Neuralgia.
As we age, the chance of experiencing post-herpetic neuralgia increases, mostly affecting those over 60 years of age. Western medical treatments are not always effective, and pain can last for months or even years after the shingles outbreak clears up.
People who experience recurrent shingles outbreaks should have a doctor check their immune system.
The pain of post-herpetic neuralgia is typically burning, sharp or aching in nature. Even the lightest touch can become unbearable. Itching and numbness are less common in cases of post-herpetic neuralgia. In very rare instances there may be muscles weakness and paralysis.
How does a doctor diagnose and treat post-herpetic neuralgia.
A doctor will diagnose shingles by sight. There is no test needed.
Western medical treatment are topical pain patches (lidocaine), tricyclic antidepressants (nortriptyline, amitriptyline), anti-convulsants (gabapentin, pregabalin), pain killers (tramadol, oxycodone).
How does acupuncture treat post-herpetic neuralgia?
From a Western biomedical perspective, acupuncture treats post-herpetic neuralgia pain by releasing endorphins and blocking pain signals. From a Chinese medical perspective, acupuncture treats pain by harmonizing Qi and Blood, and harmonizing the body’s organ systems.
I don’t often use electro-acupuncture in my practice, but this is a case when it is really beneficial. Electro-acupuncture can block pain signals locally and at on their way to the spinal column before going to the brain.
Herbal medicine is also an important adjunct treatment to acupuncture.