Acupuncture is a form of traditional Chinese medicine that involves inserting thin needles into specific points on the body. Some evidence suggests that this alternative medicine can help relieve pain and may have some benefit for providing relief from painful complications of shingles.
Shingles is a viral infection resulting from the reactivation of the varicella-zoster virus (VZV), which is the same virus that causes chickenpox. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 1 out of every 3 people in the United States will develop shingles in their lifetime.
Shingles pain and other symptoms typically develop in stages over the course of the condition, which usually lasts for 3–5 weeks. A common complication of shingles is postherpetic neuralgia (PHN), which is a severe, ongoing nerve pain that can last for months or years. Evidence suggests that 10–18% of people who get shingles will experience PHN, and the risk of PHN increases with age.
While there is currently no known cure for shingles, many treatment options are available. Although acupuncture may remain controversial among some Western medical doctors and scientists, studies suggest that it can help relieve pain, such as discomfort from shingles.
In this article, we will discuss what acupuncture is, and the effectiveness of acupuncture and other treatment options for shingles.
Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese medicine technique in which practitioners use thin metal needles to stimulate channels, or meridians, on a person’s body. Proponents suggest that vital energy or “qi” flows through these meridians and can affect spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical health.
Those who practice acupuncture state that pain and other disease symptoms occur when the network of qi channels stagnate. Therefore, acupuncturists gently use the needles to improve the flow and balance of a person’s qi to help relieve symptoms.
Some evidence suggests that it can help to relieve nerve pain, such as painful shingles rashes. While scientists still do not fully understand how acupuncture may work, some research indicates that it may aid in the release of natural pain-relieving chemicals, help regulate blood pressure and flow, and reduce inflammation.
Organizations that promote the benefits of acupuncture suggest that it can help provide pain relief. The British Acupuncture Council states that while more research is necessary, acupuncture may help to relieve painful symptoms of shingles.
A 2019 systematic review and meta-analysis reports that acupuncture may reduce pain intensity, relieve anxiety, and improve the quality of life in people who have PHN. This is consistent with a 2018 systematic review and meta-analysis, which adds that while there is not enough evidence to suggest acupuncture is superior to other treatments, it is …….