Acupuncture is a remarkably effective treatment for shingles, and also helps to prevent the persistent nerve pain.

Shingles, or herpes zoster, occurs when immune system is weakened, allowing the herpes zoster virus to attack the nerve(s). It can affect both the old and the young people, and they always have one thing in common – low immune resistance. The pain associated with shingles, can be debilitating, especially for the elderly. The pain can be burning, itching, stabbing or a combination of them, and is worse at night. Usually the patient recovers after a couple of weeks. However, in some occasions, especially among older people, it leaves severe nerve pain which may last for years.

Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) sees shingles as a combination of Xu (deficiency) and Shi (excess) in the body. Xu refers to poor body defense (or low immune resistance, low energy level); Shi involves wind, damp, heat and toxin.

Several acupuncture techniques can be employed to treat shingles, separately or together.

My personal favourite method is to treat the area around the rash which is called ‘surround the dragon’. Needles are put around the lesion with about 2cm intervals and tips pointing towards the centre of the lesion. The number of needles depends on the size of the lesion. Ideally patients are still in acute stage (within two weeks) and treated daily, or at least twice a week. This treatment can make the duration of shingles shortened.

Identify affected channels according to the location of lesions and clinical symptoms. Then select corresponding points to treat.

Identify affected nerve roots, needle related Hua Tuo Jia Ji.

If it has already become persistent nerve pain, treat local area. Plum blossom needle (hammer-like needle) and moxibustion can also be used.

Patients are advised to stay away from fatty, greasy, spice food, alcohol and beer.

Acupuncture for Shingles
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