Acupuncture, Pricking, and Cupping Effective for Treatment of Shingles (Herpes Zoster)

By Chad Dupuis
Tagged in Acupuncture and Research

Shingles is caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox (varicella zoster virus).  After having chickenpox the virus will often lie dormant in a person only to reactivate later and develop shingles.  Nearly 1 in 3 Americans will develop the condition with about half of these being in people aged 60 or older.  Shingles will generally start with a rash that can be quite painful and  may take 2-4 weeks to clear.  Acupuncture and other associated techniques are often used to treat shingles because it is both effective and generally easier on the body than anti-viral and pain medications.  The following study conducted by researchers within the Department of Acupuncture-Moxibustion and Tuina at Nanyang TCM Hospital in Nanyang China looked at the clinical effect of acupuncture for shingles.

Within Chinese Medicine shingles can often be treated with just acupuncture or acupuncture along with various other techniques such as herbal medicine, tuina (medical massage), cupping (see what is cupping?), moxibustion (see what is moxibustion?), and bloodletting (or "pricking" slight pricks similar to a diabetic finger prick to cause certain points to bleed a few drops of blood).  Cupping is often combined with pricking/bloodletting for shingles and other conditions and this was part of this study.  Researchers were evaluating whether acupuncture along with cupping and bloodletting was better than just cupping and bloodletting alone.

There were 86 participants who were randomly divided into an acupuncture and cupping/bloodletting group and a control group with just cupping and bloodletting.  Acupuncture points used were LI 11, ST 36, SP 6, among others based on clinical differentiation with patterns such as damp heat in the liver and gallbladder, spleen qi deficiency with dampness, and qi deficiency and blood stasis.  Treatment was offered daily for 14 days and then a 1 month follow up was recorded.

The acupuncture with cupping and bloodletting group had a 93% cure rate compared to the simple cupping and bloodletting group which had a 67.4% cure rate.  They concluded that proper pattern differentiation and treatment with acupuncture along with standard usage of cupping and bloodletting is superior to cupping and bloodletting alone.


Acupuncture, Pricking, and Cupping Effective for Treatment of Shingles (Herpes Zoster)

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Authored by: Chad Dupuis on 7 November 2011

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