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Complementary Approaches


Most of the evidence for the benefit of acupuncture and electroacupuncture (acupuncture with applied electrical current) for PHN involves case studies and anecdotal evidence. One small study of 56 participants suggests acupuncture may be helpful in treating shingles and PHN (Hui, 1999). Anecdotal evidence from China, where shingles is treated immediately by daily acupuncture treatments, indicates a low incidence of developing PHN. Acupuncture stimulates peripheral nerves and causes release of endorphins (pain relieving amino acids) and neural transmitters that block pain (among many of its actions). Some reports indicate acupuncture and electroacupuncture may be helpful in the management of herpes-related pain (Nathan, 1974, Ahmen 1998). And although acupuncture therapy has not been shown to be of benefit as the primary treatment of PHN, it may play a positive role in combination with other therapies such as tricyclic antidepressants, topical capsaicin and TENS (Carmichael, 1991). Probably the most that can currently be said is that acupuncture may be helpful in some cases of shingles and PHN. Controlled clinical trials with large groups of patients are needed to determine if acupuncture is beneficial, under what circumstances, the optimal number of treatments, and other variables involved in successful treatment.



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