Pain from shingles, can acupuncture help?
Acupuncture treatment for acute shinglesHerpes zoster known as shingles, is caused by varicella-zoster virus which affects nerve and the skin around it. This virus is also causes chickenpox which is primary infection. It remains dormant in the dorsal root ganglion after primary infection (causing chickenpox). It affects the sensory ganglia and their area of innervation. This is one of the most painful conditions with pain and rashes in the distribution of the affected nerve. Antiviral drugs are used to limit the damage of the nerve by the virus. Corticosteroids may be used to reduce inflammation. Various painkillers are used to reduce pain. Ursini et al from Pescara General Hospital in Italy studied acupuncture for the treatment of severe acute pain in shingles using randomized trial. They compared the efficacy of acupuncture in controlling intense or very intense pain in patients with shingles with standard pharmacological treatments. The treatments were given for 4 weeks for either acupuncture or painkillers. They found that both interventions (acupuncture and painkillers were largely effective. There were no significant differences observed in response rates, pain reduction, post-herpetic neuralgia after 3 months and pain after one year follow-up. No severe unwanted effects occurred on both interventions. Acupuncture is a potential intervention for treating acute severe pain in singles.
Acupuncture for chronic pain from shingles
Most people have chickenpox in childhood. When the illness has gone, the virus remains dormant in the nervous system being watched by the immune system. Once one’s immune system is compromised, the virus can be reactivated and cause shingles. Shingles is one of the most painful conditions. There is no cure for shingles and it can be unpleasant. In most case, the painful rash lasts 7-10 day and takes 2-4 weeks to fully heal. However about 25% of patients have pain lasting for more than one year. Unresolved pain can lead decreased quality of life, such as mood change, sleep disruption and depression etc. Hui F et al from University of Toronto studied three weeks complementary and alternative medicine including acupuncture to treat shingles related pain. The participants had a mean age of 69.8 years and had shingles related pain for a median of 4.8 months. Acupuncture points for acupuncture group were LI4, Liv 3 and ST36. After three weeks treatment, they found that pain score was significantly reduced in treatment groups. The pain reduction was maintained at 9 weeks after the treatment finished and one–two year follow-up.
Li et al studied 80 cases of shingles which were divided into two groups, acupuncture group and medication group. They found that the therapeutic effect of electroacupuncture was significantly superior to that of medication. After 10 treatments visual analogous scale (VAS) scores for of both groups reduced significantly. Both the VAS score and the crust formation time of EA group were significantly lower than those of medication group.
Hui F et al Altern Med Rev (2012) 17:57-68
Ursini T et al BMC Complement Altern Med (2011) 11:46
Li X et al Zhen Ci Yan Jiu (2009) 34:125-7