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Can Traditional Chinese Medicine Help With Post-Shingles Neuralgia and Migraines?

by Lygia Angel

Recently I treated a client for post-shingles neuralgia and migraines. My client had reoccurring bouts of shingles and was left with post-shingles neuralgia that manifested as a burning sensation along her inner thighs and the lower portion of her back. She also had reoccurring cluster migraines on the right side of her face, head, and in the right eye that were brought on by stress. She had been treating both conditions with pharmaceuticals. What Causes Shingles? (A Western Paradigm) Shingles is an infection of the peripheral nervous system caused by the virus that causes chickenpox. After a person recovers from chickenpox, the virus retreats. If the virus is reactivated, the immune system usually prevents it from spreading. However, sometimes the rekindled virus overcomes the weakened immune system, causing severe burning pain and blisters of the skin. When shingles subsides, often people have post-shingles neuralgia. The skin has gone back to normal, but burning sensations continue. Traditional Chinese Medicine View In Chinese Medicine, we look for symptoms that follow a pattern of imbalance, and attempt to rebalance the body and eliminate disease. Often, people that suffer from the same disease do not need to be balanced in the same way. For example, I can have three clients with post-shingles neuralgia. They all have the same disease, but they have it differently, because each person has a different “constitution.” Diagnosing a person’s constitution in Chinese Medicine means looking at the person’s total body pattern. I look at the person’s skin, hair, different sections of the eyes, and the functioning of the eyes, ears, and other systems. The bowel, urinary, digestive, and musculoskeletal functions are analyzed. Sleep, mental and emotional patterns are taken into consideration. Traditional Chinese Medicine is a mind, body, and spirit medicine. The total being contributes to the balance of the body and helps determine the person’s constitution. Tools for Diagnosis Two major tools for diagnosing a person’s constitution are looking at the tongue and feeling the pulses. The tongue in Chinese Medicine is divided into several segments that represent the internal workings of the body. By looking at the size, shape, color, coat, and consistency of the tongue a practitioner can tell the internal workings of the qi (energy), fluids, blood, organs, and emotions. Pulses also reveal the condition of these areas. There are three pulse positions on each wrist that represent different organs. A practitioner feels these organ pulses at different levels to determine the depth of the imbalance in certain organ areas. Consistency and speed of the pulses determine what kind of imbalance is occurring where in the body. In the case of my recent client with post-shingles neuralgia, her inner thighs were burning due to an excess of damp heat and heat caught in the liver channel (meridian) on her legs. I determined this by looking at her tongue, feeling her pulses, and inquiring about her various symptoms. My client’s migraines were also related to the flow and substances of the liver channel. After diagnosing my client’s pattern, I treated her with acupuncture and herbs. Instead of telling you her results, I’ll let her speak for herself. Relief Through Traditional Chinese Medicine Georgia Sylke, RN, MSN, of the MATC Associate Degree Nursing Faculty, writes, “I have dealt with migraine headaches for many years using various medical interventions ‘pills, injections, and suppositories’ in an attempt to get relief. As a registered nurse, I knew about acupuncture and its success in the treatment of many conditions and even recommended it to other women. But I never thought of it as an alternative treatment for myself until I had shingles and began trying to deal with the neuralgia or ‘nerve pain’ that followed. My sister suggested acupuncture and I decided to try it in order to get some relief. After four sessions with Lygia, I no longer had the neuralgia pain. I continued seeing Lygia for migraine headaches and, as of this writing, I haven’t had a headache for six months! I now recommend acupuncture to friends, colleagues, and students.” Lygia Angel has a Masters of Science in Traditional Chinese Medicine and is a licensed acupuncturist and Chinese herbalist. Riverwest Currents – Volume 1 – Issue 8 – September 2002