Shingles and Acupuncture

In China, acupuncture is recognized as the most effective of all therapies for treating Shingles. Acupuncture is effective in facilitating pain relief and crust formation. Some studies show that the effect of acupuncture is superior to conventional medication, especially for those that are not responding to or for those who do not wish to take medications, acupuncture is an excellent and effective alternative for treating Shingles.

In Chinese Medicine, Shingles is considered caused by pathogenic damp, heat and wind in the body.

  • If damp is predominant, the lesions are more likely to be in the lower part of the body with more fluid discharge from the blisters.
  • If heat predominates, blisters show more heat and redness, and the pain is more severe.
  • If wind predominates, the lesions are more likely to be in the upper part of the body with greater itching sensation.

Shingles are categorized into three patterns of disharmony:

  • Liver and gallbladder fire manifests as red lesions and skin with burning pain and heat, dry mouth with a bitter taste, constipation, yellow urine, irritability, red tongue with a yellow coat and a wiry, rapid pulse.
  • Spleen and stomach damp heat presents with blisters containing thick and yellowish fluid that are easily broken, poor appetite, abdominal distention, pale tongue body with a sticky white or yellow coating, and a slippery rapid pulse.
  • qi and blood stagnation is usually the pattern with post herpetic pain and presents with a purple tongue, dark color at the former site of the herpes lesions, poor sleep and a wiry, thready pulse.

Location of the lesions indicates the meridians affected. Lesions on the flanks and intercostal areas involve the liver and gallbladder meridians. Lesions on the head and face involve the yangming and shaoyang meridians. Acupoints will be selected to address both the pathogenic factor and the meridian involved. Lesions may be involved in multiple meridians. Auricular acupuncture or acupressure via the application of vaccaria seeds can be used as a supplement for the body acupuncture. Once the blisters have healed, if pain persists, a technique called plum blossom needling can be used over the painful area. Another modality may be used is moxibustion.

In term of acupuncture treatment, timing is critical. The sooner the patients come for acupuncture, the quicker they can recover and better results they can get. Regularly, the patients recover from Shingles after 10 to 12-times of treatment. Some patients may recover quicker and some may take longer time to recover.