If someone has had Chicken Pox then there is potential for them to develop Shingles later in life. The virus (varicella zoster) which causes chickenpox never fully leaves our body, it can remain dormant all our lives, or be triggered and turn into shingles. I regularly see shingles develop as a result of prolonged stress mixed with a recent illness, often a cold/flu or a virus caught whilst travelling. This causes our immune system to become very weak and this activates the dormant virus.
Shingles is characterised by a rash which most commonly appears on the sides of the body, there is often pain and blistering. As this virus inflames the nerves, the pain can be quite debilitating, and it is important to rest during the initial stages. I often see people try and keep soldiering on like they have a cold. Shingles is a very serious infection and needs to be treated as such.
Is Shingles Infectious? Ordinarily no but direct contact with the fluid within the blisters needs to be avoided, as this can transmit the virus from one person to another.
Like with any infection, the sooner you seek treatment, the better you will recover. Though rare these days, permanent nerve damage and even nerve death can occur if the virus isn’t treated accordingly. If you feel you have developed shingles it is important to first seek advise from your GP as to whether you require stronger intervention.
Shingles is classified as a “lingering” or “latent” pathogen in Chinese Medicine. This means it is a pathogen which has never been fully expelled from the body and is laying dormant deep in the body, waiting for an opportunity to recur. Pathogens in this category belong to the “Shao Yang” level, (‘the pivot’ in English), meaning it is half in/half out. The Gallbladder meridian belongs to the “Shao Yang”, which runs over the sides of the body from head to toe. This is why when the pathogen expresses itself, the rashing and blistering occurs along the GallBladder channel. As stated above, for a pathogen at this deep level to become active again, a great disturbance to the bodies flow of Qi is required. Often stress and fatigue causes the body to become depleted, which also weakens the digestion and immune system. A strong pathogen can also act as a trigger which can penetrate down to this pivotal level and activate this dormant pathogen.
The most common causes I see for Shingles are people returning from a holiday in a hot/humid climate, or people who’s immunity has become weak from prolonged stress and overwork. This is why maintaining your health is so important!
Because of how Chinese Medicine views the working of the body, it always has tools to deal with these difficult cases. Research has shown Acupuncture effective for shingles nerve pain. I have treated many cases of Shingles in my years of practice, and have developed Acupuncture point combinations which can help your body recover faster from the virus. Often this involves needling points along the affected meridian which helps “vent” the pathogen from this deeper layer, to the surface where the body can expel it once and for all. It is this unique approach to illness that Acupuncture utilises that makes it effective in treating shingles. By venting the pathogen, the rash will dissipate, and the pain decrease as the body slowly removes the pathogen. Like with any illness, the sooner treatment is commenced, the better the result can be.
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