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Acupuncture in the Treatment of Shingles Pain

by Christina Captain, DAOM, MSAOM, MSHN, MA 


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that one in three people living in the United States will develop shingles in their lifetime, and one million Americans are diagnosed with shingles each year. As we age, the risk of experiencing shingles becomes greater, so about 50% of all cases are reported in people, 60 years or older.  

Shingles, also known as herpes zoster, is caused by the same virus that causes chicken pox and results in a blistering painful rash. The most common side-effect of shingles is post herpetic neuralgia (PHN), nerve-like pain that can last for months or years before, during or after the rash from herpes zoster goes away. Shingles can be serious and involve numerous complications, from depression and anxiety to decreased appetite and weight loss. Location of the breakout is also important, as a rash near the eye can result in vision loss.  

The varicella zoster virus causes chicken pox, and when a person is recovered from chicken pox, the virus remains inactive in the body. The reactivation of this virus causes the shingles outbreak. Although we do not know why the reactivation occurs, theories suggest that extreme stress, excessive alcohol and depressed immunity can cause the virus to become active. 

The conventional treatment for shingles is a regimen of antiviral medication and pain killers. These medications are more effective if they are started as soon as the patient notices the rash or the unexplained pain. For those seeking alternatives to a conventional treatment of shingles, we can look to Chinese Medicine and acupuncture.  

Unfortunately, there are no current human studies regarding acupuncture’s effectiveness in the treatment of pain from shingles. However, Traditional Chinese Medicine documents the treatment of shingles historically for over 1,000 years. In my experience, acupuncture in combination with conventional care, is extremely successful at reducing the duration and pain of a shingles outbreak, as well as the pain associated with PHN after the rash is resolved.  

The length of time in waiting to receive this integrated treatment directly correlates with the duration of the rash and subsequent pain. Patients who have received treatment just after being diagnosed with shingles fair the best with, at times, only a 10-day process and no experience of PHN. Chinese herbal medicine, as well as Western herbs, can also decrease the pain and duration of the virus.   

For those looking to avoid the conventional treatment altogether, acupuncture, in combination with herbs, can effectively treat shingles pain and decrease the duration of the viral outbreak. If you have the unfortunate experience of shingles, please visit your doctor as soon as you notice any symptoms, then seek a qualified and board-certified Doctor of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine.  


Christina Captain is a nationally board-certified and Florida-licensed acupuncture physician and the lead practitioner at the Family Healing Center which she founded in 2000. In 2014, she earned a Master of Science degree in Human Nutrition from the University of Bridgeport, Connecticut, and is currently a candidate for the Doctorate in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine with focus in integrative medicine from AOMA – Graduate School of Integrative Medicine, Austin, Texas. (2016). Captain’s knowledge and enthusiasm for health and wellness has earned her a reputation as a qualified lecturer, keynote speaker and experienced teacher throughout the United States. To meet Dr. Captain, call 941-951-1119 and schedule your free meet-and-greet. 


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