Using Acupuncture For Shingles


If you’ve ever had chickenpox, that means you’ve had the varicella-zoster virus, and this virus can lie dormant for years, only to reemerge in the form of shingles. The main symptom of shingles (also known as herpes zoster) is a painful rash that often appears as a stripe of blisters around one side of the face or torso. On top of this characteristic rash, shingles can cause a fever, chills, headache, vision and/or eye problems, and an upset stomach. Shingles can knock you off your feet, and, to make matters worse, you can get it more than once. But the good news is, you can manage your symptoms with the help of acupuncture for shingles. 

Acupuncture stimulates the nervous system to eliminate pain caused by shingles. Acupuncture also supports a healthy immune response and can even be used to treat postherpetic neuralgia. 

Acupuncture can help you manage shingles pain

The shingles rash follows nerve endings in the body, so the blisters usually run in straight lines. Most often, the rash shows up across the abdomen running from the spine to the front of the stomach, but it’s possible to develop the rash on the face or elsewhere. Regardless of where the rash appears, it can be incredibly painful.

One of the major benefits acupuncture has to offer shingles patients is pain relief. During an acupuncture session, strategically placed needles are used to increase the flow of blood and oxygen throughout the body. This boost in circulation speeds up the healing process by reducing inflammation. 

Acupuncture helps mitigate shingles pain in another way, and that is by triggering the release of certain pain-fighting neurotransmitters. The nervous system is responsible for sending pain signals to the brain in the form of neurotransmitters. Certain neurotransmitters, like GABA and endorphins, work to calm the nervous system and reduce pain. 

Acupuncture has been shown to trigger the release of both GABA and endorphins, and this raises the pain threshold naturally. Studies also show that acupuncture is effective for treating pain related to elevated inflammation, as well as nerve pain associated not just with shingles, but also conditions like fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis. This means acupuncture is twice as effective for addressing shingles pain.  

Acupuncture supports immune system function

Shingles is most common in people over 50. A shingles flare-up occurs when the shingles virus becomes reactivated. Episodes typically last from 2 to 5 weeks, during which time the body must ramp up the immune system to combat the virus once again. So making sure your immune system is firing on all cylinders is critically important. 

Acupuncture is a popular treatment for allergies, as well as cold and flu-like symptoms. Many people also utilize acupuncture sessions alongside their cancer treatments and/or autoimmune therapies. Acupuncture offers patients clear benefits when it comes to immune-boosting. But, interestingly, researchers still aren’t exactly sure why acupuncture is so effective at supporting immune health. 

What the research does indicate, however, is that acupuncture has a regulatory effect on T-cells and B-cells, both of which play an important role in the immune response. Supporting the body’s ability to regulate these cells enables it to fight off infections and viruses more effectively. 

Routine acupuncture sessions regulate the body’s immune system so you can overcome your shingles symptoms more quickly. Regular treatments may also prevent shingles flare-ups from developing in the future. 

Acupuncture for postherpetic neuralgia

The reason shingles is so painful is because the virus targets nerve endings. Nerve pain can be agonizing, as anyone dealing with neuropathy can tell you. In some cases, the nerve pain of shingles lasts even long after the flare-up is gone. This is called postherpetic neuralgia. 

This complication of the shingles virus can result in nerve pain that lasts for months or even years after the virus. Many patients turn to over-the-counter pain relievers to cope with the pain, but the fact is, these medications are very poor at treating this kind of pain because even though they may be effective at fighting inflammation, they do very little for nerve pain. 

In a study, acupuncture was found to be more effective than pain medications for treating postherpetic neuralgia. The same study also indicated acupuncture’s effectiveness in helping to treat depression and insomnia, which sometimes develop in shingles patients

Maybe you’re still struggling with residual pain caused by the shingles virus. Or maybe you had shingles long ago, but you’ve never felt quite like yourself since then. Either way, acupuncture can be used to help your body overcome the virus, and the many unpleasant symptoms associated with it. 

How often do shingles patients need acupuncture treatments?

There is no one-size-fits-all treatment protocol for shingles. We treat all of our patients, shingles or otherwise, on a case-by-case basis. Typically, the more severe your shingles symptoms, the more often you’ll require treatments, and the less severe your symptoms, the less often you’ll need treatments. 

For patients currently struggling with a shingles flare, we may advise weekly, twice-weekly, or even daily sessions to help them cope with the pain. Patients looking to address postherpetic neuralgia may have a different protocol. We may also change the treatment strategy to help patients overcome insomnia and mood-related symptoms associated with shingles. It just depends on the patient and their goals. 

In some instances, we may advise additional therapies. Cupping has also shown promising results when it comes to treating shingles. Electrostimulation also has benefits to offer, especially if your nerve pain has been stubborn to treat in the past. We’ll work with you to determine which treatment options will work best for you based on your circumstances.

Book your first appointment today

No matter what your shingles symptoms are, and no matter how long you’ve had them, acupuncture can help you overcome them. At Lycoming Orthopedic & Sports Acupuncture, we’ll listen to all of your concerns during your first visit, and help you come up with a treatment strategy that’s right for you. 

Contact our office today to learn more about using acupuncture to treat shingles symptoms. Our friendly staff are available to answer any questions you may have and can help you book an appointment, too. 

Shingles can be debilitating, but it doesn’t have to take over your whole life. With acupuncture, you can manage your symptoms and get back to doing all of the things you enjoy comfortably and pain-free. 

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