Everyone is familiar with the chickenpox and those red, itchy spots that most of us had during our childhood, along with mumps, measles and strep throat. However, many of you may not be familiar with chickenpox’s evil twin, shingles.
Shingles is the same virus that causes chickenpox, herpes zoster, which has found its way into your nervous system, only to reemerge when you least expect it. People most likely to get shingles are older, stressed out, or run down in some way.
The evil twin part is that the shingles virus has been lurking in your spinal nerves for years, and sometimes decades, and when it erupts, it can be extremely painful. Shingles causes a bright red and blistering rash that develops above the nerve on the affected side—usually on your torso, but it can occur on your head, face, neck, or legs. The area below the rash is very sensitive and can be extremely painful. Once the rash is gone, there can still be chronic lingering nerve pain that can be severe and debilitating, especially in older sufferers.
In Chinese medicine, Shingles are always associated with some kind of heat. It’s possible to have too much heat in your body, which can manifest in a number of ways, such as a fever, infection, inflammation, or a nasty red and itchy rash. In Chinese medicine, shingles is considered to be toxic heat—a condition associated with redness, swelling, and a weepy discharge (gross!).
There is also usually a damp element to shingles, as well. In your body, dampness is what causes athlete’s food, yeast infections, and edema. The damp element to shingles is found in the blistering quality of the rash.
While shingles seemingly comes out of nowhere to make your life miserable, there is usually a reason it’s happening now. One of the most frequent causes is overwhelming stress, but poor diet, fatigue, having a weak or compromised immune system, or aging in general can also activate the virus.
Shingles will ultimately go away on its own, but an acupuncturist can help you speed up the healing process in a couple of ways. Acupuncture can help with the pain associated with shingles and decrease the possibility of long-term neuralgia (nerve pain). In addition, your acupuncturist can speed up the time it takes for your rash to resolve. In most cases, he or she will treat the rash with acupuncture, suggest the use of Chinese herbs and food therapy to speed up healing, and address the underlying imbalance that lead to your outbreak.