The numbers surrounding shingles are eye-opening — one in three people in the United States develop the condition during their lifetime, and 13% of those who have shingles and who are 50 years of age or older go on to struggle with postherpetic neuralgia (PHN).
PHN is incredibly difficult to treat since it involves hyperactive nerve activity, leaving people to try to manage the discomfort through medications. To avoid a lifetime of potentially risky drug use, many people turn to acupuncture to relieve PHN, with great success.
In the following, the team at Family Wellness Acupuncture explores how acupuncture can provide welcome pain relief in the face of ongoing PHN.
Shingles and PHN
The cause of shingles is varicella zoster virus, which is a virus that lies dormant in your body after you’ve had chickenpox. If the virus reactivates, it leads to shingles, which is a very painful rash on one side of your body, usually on your face, your shoulder, or your trunk.
The rash is made up of blisters that usually scab over in about a week or two, and most episodes end after two to four weeks. In most cases, shingles only occurs once and doesn’t return.
Unfortunately, for some, the episode doesn’t end there as they develop PHN, which is a long-term complication of shingles. This condition occurs when the shingles outbreak damages the nerve fibers in the area, causing them to become hyperactive — meaning they continue to send pain signals for months or years after the outbreak.
This type of nerve pain is notoriously difficult to treat, leaving people to rely on medications to dull the pain.
Acupuncture and PNH
If you develop PNH and you aren’t keen on the idea of depending upon pharmaceutical solutions, acupuncture is a highly effective alternative.
Through acupuncture, we quiet the overactive nerves by stimulating certain acupressure points in your body. This activation encourages the release of endorphins, which are your body’s natural painkillers. As well, acupuncture influences your neurotransmitters in a way that helps to disrupt the pain messaging between your hyperactive nerves and your brain.
To give you an idea about the success of using acupuncture to treat PHN, one study found that acupuncture helped to reduce the intensity of PHN pain and improve the quality of life of the patients. Another study suggests that acupuncture is superior to pharmacological solutions when it comes to decreasing pain intensity.
Not only can acupuncture help to reduce the pain associated with PHN, but it also works to relieve pain-related anxiety and stress, which can be quite high when you’re struggling with hyperactive nerves.
In other words, acupuncture is a comprehensive pain-management treatment for shingles and PHN as it works directly on the pain at the same time as it relaxes you, which leads to an overall improvement in your quality of life.
If you’re struggling with shingles and PHN and you want to learn more about how acupuncture can provide the relief you need, please contact our office Irvine, California, to set up an appointment.