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Shingles (Herpes Zoster)

Shingles (herpes zoster) is a reactivation of the chickenpox virus causing a painful rash and, in most cases, post-herpetic neuralgia. It can be a debilitating condition resulting in sleep deprivation due to the pain and exhaustion.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) shingles is known as “Pellets of fire spreading around the waist” due to the intense burning pain from the vesicular rash.

The actual cause of the reactivation of the shingles virus is unknown however predisposing factors can include stress, overwork, low immunity or contact with the active rash by someone who has had chickenpox.

Early signs can include lethargy, fever, pain, burning and tingling sensations, with a rash appearing within a few days. The rash is arranged in the shape of a belt along a unilateral side of the body. Shingles usually affects one side of the trunk, sometimes the head, and the pain and rash follows a nerve pathway. The course of shingles lasts 2 to 3 weeks usually but has been known to last for many months and, in some cases, the post-herpetic neuralgia has lasted for many years.

Shingles virus is contagious (to someone who has had chicken pox) when the blisters break and ooze fluid (which occurs after about 5 to 7 days) and continues to be contagious until all the blisters have crusted over.

It is strongly advised to obtain an antiviral medication such as aciclovir or valaciclovir within 3 days to help immediately but there still may be neuralgia for some time afterward. This is where acupuncture can be of great benefit. Chinese Herbal Medicine and acupuncture can help greatly in addressing shingles in its initial outbreak phase and acupuncture can also alleviate pain in the post-herpetic neuralgia phase.

So… if you are suffering from shingles or neuralgia its probably a good idea to contact your nearest, qualified acupuncturist or Chinese Medicine practitioner for assistance. Also obtain the antiviral medication as soon as possible.

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