Shingles: Treatment & Postherpetic Neuralgia

Shingles, also known as herpes zoster, affects about one million people a year in the United States. It is caused by the varicella zoster virus. This is the same virus which causes chicken pox. The risk of shingles increases with age and can even affect children. Having a history of chickenpox puts you at risk for developing shingles later in life due to the virus remaining dormant in the body.
Acupuncture and Eastern Medicine is an effective treatment for helping to relieve intense shingle pain and also helps prevent the potential long-term effects of shingles such as postherpetic neuralgia. A combination of both acupuncture and herbal medicine has been used for over thousands of years for the treatment of shingles.
Initial symptoms include a sensitivity typically on one side of the body. Extreme pain can eventually exist in these same sensitive areas. The rash consists of blister-like sores usually on the face, chest, back, or torso of the body. Initial blisters are often clear and break out in affected areas. Blisters can turn yellow, scab over, and then fall off. Other symptoms may include chills, headache, fever, and even an upset stomach. Treatment protocol includes antivirals as well as nerve pain medications.
Eastern Medicine approaches the treatment of shingles by treating both the skin lesions and the nerve pain. Herbal formulas are used for the anti-viral effect, reducing both inflammation and alleviating nerve pain. The therapeutic effects are to drain damp-heat from the blister-like skin lesions, purge fire and eliminate toxins from the virus, but also imperative to tonifying the underlying deficiencies that may exist which is the actual root cause for the virus to be activated in the first place. Optimal treatment is treating both the cause and symptoms. Antivirals will help suppress the virus and shorten the duration of infection. Treating the symptoms as well as post shingles issues requires addressing both the inflammation and nerve pain which can often linger even after the rash is gone.
The Huang Di Nei Jing (Yellow Emperor’s Inner Classic) reveals the well documented treatment of shingles dating back all the way back to the 2nd century A.D.. There are both oral and topical herbal formulas which effectively treat shingle lesions and the neuralgia involved. Certain specific acupoints are used on the body to help strengthen the immune system as well as relieve toxins and nerve pain secondary to the shingles virus.
Food therapy is used to help further fortify the immune system. Due to the nervous system being under attack, foods rich in vitamin B will help facilitate the healing process. These include wheat germ, brewer’s yeast, eggs, and whole grains. Foods rich in vitamins and supplements such as L-lysine, calcium, magnesium, Vitamins A, B, C, and E are all very beneficial. Eating green, orange, and red vegetables with every meal will ensure plenty of these vitamins. Green leafy vegetables are fortified with both calcium and magnesium which will help heal nerve endings.
Other supplements may include olive leaf extract 500mg up to 4 times a day. This has potent antiviral effects. Echinacea can also be used for both immune support and antiviral benefits. Vitamin E-complex can be taken up to 1600 IU daily for the treatment of postherpetic neuralgia. To prevent onset of neuralgia, take 400 IU daily. You can also apply topically. Raw, grated yam with a pinch of borax is a topical treatment which has been used and passed down for generations to help the rash itself and provide some relief. Wet compresses, lukewarm colloidal oatmeal baths, and calamine lotion may also temporarily relieve itching.
Avoid alcohol and tobacco products. It is best to refrain from foods high in L-carnitine. These include chocolate, peanuts, and corn. Other foods to avoid include spicy, greasy, and fried as well as seafood and shellfish. Sugar suppresses the activity of white blood cells so it is best to avoid. Tea tree oil can help dry up blisters. The fluid in these blisters are contagious so contact should be avoided.
Shingles may be triggered by both physical and emotional stress. Other factors may include spinal cord injuries and conditions causing immunodeficiencies in the body. Eastern Medicine takes all these in consideration when treating the patient and implements the nourishment of the immune system resolving the underlying root cause. I see clients that may have had initial western treatment but still have residual neuralgia post shingles outbreak. Often this is the result of not having the immune system strengthened and underlying deficiencies nourished. Pain management is one of the key treatments with acupuncture and Eastern Medicine so it works very well for post neuralgia secondary to shingles outbreak. Call today to begin you journey to optimal health! 772-353-1397