Did you have chicken pox as a child? You may develop shingles as an adult, which is an often painful rash, typically on the left or right side of the torso. For most adults, the symptoms clear up in 2-4 weeks. For others, the pain continues after the rash has cleared up.
This is called postherpetic neuralgia (PHN), a complication from shingles that occurs when damaged nerve fibers send messages from your skin to your brain. These messages are often confused and exaggerated, and feel like persistent tingling, burning, or shooting pain. Some people experience sensitivity to touch and are uncomfortable with anything on their skin, including clothing.
Postherpetic neuralgia can have a significant impact on daily activities, including dressing, bathing, and sleep. This impacts quality of life, general health, psychological health, and social and economic well-being.
Who is At Risk?
Anyone who has had chicken pox is at risk for shingles; the virus remains in the nervous system, and can be reactivated in adulthood.
An estimated 1 in 3 Americans experience shingles in their lifetime. Factors that may increase the risk of developing shingles include:
– Age: Shingles is most common in people over the age of 60
– Gender: Shingles is more common in females, especially post-menopausal women
– Race: Shingles is more common in people of non-Hispanic white ancestry than in those of African American ancestry
– Weakened immune systems: Certain diseases such as cancer and HIV increase the risk of developing shingles
Factors that may increase the risk of developing PHN include:
– Delayed antiviral treatment (more than 72 hours after shingles rash appeared)
– Chronic illness such as diabetes, autoimmune diseases, and COPD
– Severity of shingles
– Location of shingles, especially on the face
Individuals with tingling, numbness, itching, or severe pain before the shingles rash develops are more likely to experience PHN.
How Long Will it Last?
The duration of symptoms varies by individuals. PHN can last for a few months, or become a long-term, chronic condition.
What Can Help?
PHN can resolve spontaneously over time. Due to the severity of the symptoms, many turn to prescription medicine, which can relieve some pain for a period of time. Approximately 50% of patients report the medication does not provide satisfactory results, and some of the medications have a high incidence of adverse side effects including weight gain, dizziness, ataxia, and sedation.
Clinical trials indicate that acupuncture can help reduce pain and discomfort among patients with PHN. In over 137 studies, between 84-97.5% of patients reported experiencing symptom relief from pain and discomfort. Moreover, acupuncture is a safe treatment with minimal risk.
In addition to symptom relief, acupuncture can actually help with nerve regeneration and preservation. Acupuncture also helps calm the central nervous system, leading to more restful sleep, and improves digestion, both of which aid in the body’s natural healing process.
If you or someone you love is experiencing postherpetic neuralgia, call Affinity Acupuncture at 615-939-2787 today to schedule a consultation with William. He will meet with you in person to discuss your symptoms, health history, and goals, and recommend a treatment plan specific to you and your needs. His protocol may involve acupuncture and additional treatments.
Directed by William Alexander, L.Ac., C.SMA, a specialist in seemingly hopeless cases, Affinity Acupuncture | Integrative Medicine provides an environment dedicated to you and your better health.
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