Today the New England Journal of Medicine shared some frustrating statistics on their blog - stating that nearly 20% of patients who have suffered from an outbreak of shingles (Herpes Zoster), experience neuralgia (pain and discomfort of the skin) up to 18 months following the incident! Check it out here. I find this as unfortunate as I do staggering. Anyone who has had chickenpox is at risk for experiencing shingles in their lifetime. And it is not necessarily limited to just one episode. Stress, fatigue, improper diet, and any immuno-compromising issue can increase the likelihood of a shingles outbreak. Geriatric patients tend to experience shingles more commonly and often than younger populations - and have longer lasting pain. According to the CDC, half of all cases are experienced by those over the age of 60. According to NEJM:
"Recommended treatments include topical agents (lidocaine or capsaicin) and systemic agents (in particular, gabapentin, pregabalin, or tricyclic antidepressants), but their efficacy tends to be suboptimal."
I want to insert my professional opinion here - it is my blog after all! Herpes Zoster is a virus that lies dormant after a person has been exposed to chickenpox. There is no known cure and the virus is not even fully understood by science. In a healthy person, the immune system kicks in to keep the virus in its dormant and unexpressed state. We know that stress, lack of sleep and exercise and poor diet choices all lower the immune system and ability to fight off illness. While the pharmaceuticals listed above might help with some of the discomfort experienced by a shingles outbreak (though NEJM even states these treatments are SUBOPTIMAL), they do not address the root issue, prevent further outbreaks - nor do they help an individual manage stress, get better sleep, boost the immune system, decrease pain and inflammation in the body, or make wiser dietary choices. But hey - guess what does? Acupuncture and Chinese medicine! There is hope, and it comes in the form of health and wellness as a lifestyle choice and that's what I can offer my patients. As always, I welcome any questions or concerns you may have. Here's to your health! - Holly Christiansen, Licensed Acupuncturist at Bluegrass Acupuncture & Herbal Medicine in Lexington, Kentucky.
About the Author:
Holly Christiansen, Licensed Acupuncturist, currently practicing in the gorgeous, horse capital of the world: Lexington, Kentucky.