Acupuncture combined with moxibustion was determined more effective than the drug gabapentin for the treatment of shingles, herpes zoster. New research compared the effects of acupuncture followed by local moxibustion against a group that received gabapentin and sham acupuncture. The true acupuncture group had an effective rate of 94% and the drug group had an effective rate of 86%.
Gabapentin (neurontin) is a pharmaceutical medication often used to treat nerve pain, especially in cases nerve pain due to shingles (post-herpetic neuralgia). True acupuncture was applied to Ashi points. Sham acupuncture is a form of simulated acupuncture used to help establish controls in clinical investigations and assists in ruling out the placebo effect. In this study, sham non-acupuncture points were needled in the distal region of the herpetic lesions. This type of sham control has received recent criticism by researchers in that sham needling may provide medical benefits thereby skewing data towards underestimating the healing powers of true acupuncture.
Moxibustion involves burning herbs, usually Ai Ye (mugwort), near the skin to provide penetrating warmth. Moxibustion is often combined with acupuncture by licensed acupuncturists in clinical settings. In this study, moxibustion (moxa) was applied for 15 minutes in the region of the lesions.
The treatment of shingles has historically been treated by acupuncture within the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) system for well over 1,000 years. This new research confirms the efficacy of acupuncture for the treatment of nerve pain related to the sequela of shingles. The team estimated the cost of care for both groups and determined that acupuncture is both effective and cost-effective for the treatment of nerve pain due to shingles.
The historical treatment of shingles with acupuncture often involves, according to TCM principles, the treatment of endogenous damp heat. A Zang-Fu diagnosis may confirm excess liver and gallbladder fire and exogenous toxins. Treatment may involve acupuncture points LI11 (Quchi), SP10 (Xuehai), UB40 (Weizhong), GB34 (Yanglingquan) and LV3 (Taichong). According to TCM principles, this combination of acupuncture points dispels wind, clears heat toxins, clears heat in the blood and clears liver and gallbladder damp heat.
Huang, S. X., M. Mao, J. J. Pu, Y. H. Chen, L. Deng, H. Zhao, M. J. Geng et al. "Clinical research on fire filiform needle combined with mild moxibustion for postherpetic neuralgia." Zhongguo zhen jiu [Chinese acupuncture & moxibustion] 34, no. 3 (2014): 225.