The pain of postherpetic neuralgia is some of the worst pains a person can experience. Many drugs are used to relieve postherpetic neuralgia pain, including painkillers, capsaicin cream, anticonvulsants, and antidepressants. But when these medications don't work, or don't work well enough, some patients are turning to acupuncture for relief. Acupuncture is used either instead of, or in conjunction with, conventional medical treatments.
In China all shingles patients are treated with acupuncture. This practice is believed to be the reason that there are so few cases of postherpetic neuralgia there. In the United States, the use of acupuncture as a treatment for postherpetic neuralgia has received only limited study. However, initial trials have shown promising results. In a five-year study of 189 patients age 20-89, 84 percent reported no pain or skin legions at the end of their treatment. Of the remaining patients, 17 percent reported some improvement and 3 percent reported no improvement. Scientists believe that acupuncture relieves the pain of postherpetic neuralgia by stimulating the nerves, which causes the body to release endorphins (amino acids that relieve pain) and neural transmitters that block pain.
Acupuncture is one of the oldest healing practices in the world. It has been practiced in China for thousands of years, and is one of the fundamental parts of traditional Chinese medicine. The Chinese believe that two opposing yet inseparable forces, called yn and yang, maintain a delicate balance in the body. Yin is seen as passive and cold, while yang is seen as active and hot. When these forces are in balance, you are healthy. When they become unbalanced, you become sick. The imbalance of yin and yang disrupts the flow of energy, or Chi, through the meridians of the body. Acupuncture is used to restore balance. Sounds a little like magic, but there's a reason it's practice is still prevalent. Whether you believe in chi or not - patients say it works! Pain is caused by defects in the needle or improper placement, so it is important to seek a qualified practitioner who also has conventional medical training. Always check for credentials. Acupuncture can cause infections or puncture organs when it is not performed correctly. When it comes to acupuncture, sterilization is key. Make sure that your acupuncturist uses disposable needles from a sealed package and swabs your skin with a disinfectant before inserting them. It is also important to make sure your doctor knows you are receiving acupuncture so that treatment of your postherpetic neuralgia can be coordinated. Fortunately, few complications have been reported to the FDA. More than 8 million Americans have used acupuncture. If you see an acupuncturist, s/he will insert hair-thin, metal needles in your body at specific points to treat your illness. You should experience little or no pain when the needles are inserted. Many say they feel energized or relaxed by the treatment.