Anyone who has ever experienced the pain of shingles, or the herpes zoster virus, can attest to the excruciating pain of the condition. The most common cause of chronic nerve pain, shingles affects one out of every three people in the United States. In fact, more than one million cases are diagnosed every year.
Although Shingrix, the shingles vaccine released in 2017, is highly effective, some people still experience symptoms in spite of being vaccinated.
Like other herpes viruses, the varicella-zoster virus has an initial infectious stage (chicken pox), followed by a dormant stage when the virus settles into nerve tissue. About 20 percent of people who have had chicken pox will eventually develop shingles. Outbreaks start with itching, numbness, tingling or severe pain and can progress to a rash, most commonly occurring on the trunk. Shingles can also occur on the scalp, face or even eyes. Initial symptoms may also present like the flu, including headache, fever, fatigue or swollen lymph nodes.
During chicken pox infection, the virus enters the cutaneous nerves and then travels to the dorsal root ganglia of the spine, where it lies dormant until triggered. Stress, illness, emotional upset, immuno-suppressant drugs, fatigue and radiation therapy all can set the stage for a shingles outbreak. Your chances of experiencing a bout of shingles increases with age, being most common in those over 50.
So how else can you protect yourself? If you do notice these symptoms, it’s important to seek Chinese medical care as soon as possible — even if you’re taking prescription antiviral medications.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), shingles is considered a latent pathogen. All illnesses are classified according to the stage of infection and position in the body’s physiology. For example, a straightforward cold stays more at the body’s surface, whereas cancer lies deep in blood tissue or organs.
TCM considers shingles a Shao Yang pathology, meaning one that is deeply entrenched in the body and periodically flares. In fact, there are specific herbal formulas specifically designed to combat Shao Yang illnesses. These formulas tend to have antiviral properties and not only help reduce symptoms, but can weaken the virus while strengthening the immune system.
Acupuncture may also be employed as a powerful tool to clear rashes and ease pain, especially by working specifically in spinal dermatome areas called Hua Tuo Jiaji points. As shingles rashes tend to follow specific nerve pathways originating in vertebral nerve centers, these points can help clear up shingles at the source.
Even if you’re already taking antiviral medications like acyclovir, Chinese medical treatment can not only provide powerful relief, but also strengthen your immune system and body in general. The result: faster recovery from shingles, reduced change of future outbreaks and improved overall health.