Shingles, also known as herpes zoster, is an infection caused by the varicella-zoster virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as many as
When you have shingles, you’ll first develop a rash that turns into blisters. Before the rash appears, you’ll likely feel pain in the affected area.
The pain and rash from shingles affect one side of the body. Areas commonly affected include:
- face or eyes
If you’re experiencing pain from shingles, you may be wondering if acupuncture can help. Acupuncture is a form of traditional Chinese medicine that’s commonly used to treat pain. In fact, there’s been some research exploring acupuncture specifically for shingles.
Acupuncture involves inserting thin needles into specific parts of the body known as acupuncture points. The professional who performs this technique is called an acupuncturist. Acupuncturists use single use needles and follow the Clean Needle Technique.
When your acupuncturist inserts the needles, you may feel a tingling sensation. If you experience unbearable pain, let them know.
After inserting the needles, your acupuncturist activates them through electrical stimulation or by gently moving them with their hands, or they may not stimulate them at all. They’ll leave the needles in your skin for up to 30 minutes. This process helps your body to release its own naturally occurring painkillers.
You’ll undergo this treatment depending on the severity of your case and how your body responds. Treatment may be necessary daily or weekly.
In 2011, a
More recently, researchers found that adding acupuncture to traditional antiviral therapy
- the pain before the blisters appeared
- the time it took for the blisters to scab over
- the time it took for blisters to stop forming
After recovery, shingles can trigger a painful nerve condition on the areas where the blisters appeared. This nerve pain is called postherpetic neuralgia (PHN) and can last for weeks, months, or even years.
The CDC reports that
According to the
In 2014, researchers noted that nearly 140 studies had used acupuncture to help manage PHN within the past 5 years. Other studies have shown that acupuncture may be effective at managing pain related to PHN as well as improving quality of life.
The results from a new study on the effectiveness of acupuncture as a treatment for PHN are forthcoming.
Acupuncture is generally considered safe and has few, if any, side effects.
If you think you have shingles, see your doctor as soon as possible. This increases the effectiveness of any treatment your doctor will prescribe for you. The treatment doesn’t cure shingles. It’s meant to help you manage the pain.
Besides acupuncture, you can use other methods to manage your pain. These include:
- antiviral drugs such as Famvir, Zovirax, and Valtrex
- over-the-counter and prescription pain relievers
- calamine lotion, colloidal oatmeal, andwet compresses
Shingrix, made from a dead germ, is the preferred vaccine. People with weakened immune systems can get it. It’s risky for this group to get the Zostavax vaccine, which contains a live but weakened germ.
Zostavax has not been sold in the United States since November 18, 2020. If you received this vaccine, the
If you’re thinking of trying acupuncture for shingles pain or PHN, consider asking your doctor first. They may be able to help you find a licensed acupuncturist in your area.
Though acupuncture may help with pain, it’s not a treatment for shingles. Be sure to talk with a doctor as soon as possible if you’re experiencing shingles symptoms. This will help ensure you get treated quickly and lower the risk of complications.