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Oh, the Pain! 6 Alternative Ways to Ease Agony of Shingles

Antiviral drugs get rid of it, but these techniques can reduce the discomfort

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    Nontraditional Treatments

    Every year, nearly 1 million Americans get shingles (herpes zoster), a reactivation of the chicken pox virus that causes a painful rash. A vaccine can halve your risk, but if you do get shingles, see your doctor immediately for prescription meds. And check out these nontraditional ways to further ease the pain.

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    Acupuncture

    Chinese studies have shown that acupuncture can reduce the pain of shingles and speed the time it takes for sores to begin healing. Ask a licensed acupuncturist about electroacupuncture, surround needling and the addition of moxibustion, a process that warms the acupuncture points by burning certain herbs near the skin.

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    Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS)

    This noninvasive pain treatment uses a small device to deliver low-voltage electrical current to electrodes that are attached to the skin. Mel Borins, M.D., author of A Doctor’s Guide to Alternative Medicine: What Works, What Doesn’t and Why, says the most important shingles advice is to seek immediate treatment with antiviral drugs. TENS therapy can also be helpful, Borins adds.

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    Stress Reduction Therapy

    Stress can contribute to the likelihood of a shingles outbreak, and continued stress can make that outbreak more painful. Treatments such as hypnosis and mindfulness-based therapy can help reduce stress. Ask your doctor about practitioners in your area.

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    Cupping

    This traditional Chinese medicine technique involves applying heated cups to the skin to create energy flow. A journal review of several studies on the effectiveness of cupping showed that the practice has potential in treating the shingles rash. To find a licensed cupping practitioner in your area, visit cuppingtherapy.org

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    Manuka Honey and Clover Honey

    Both have been shown to have significant antiviral properties that fight against the zoster virus. A 2012 study has suggested that these honeys, when applied topically to the shingles rash, can be used as a remedy — especially in developing countries where antiviral drugs are expensive or unavailable.

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    Capsaicin

    This ingredient, found in hot peppers, is used in a topical treatment that provides temporary relief from postherpetic neuralgia, the lingering pain that can follow a shingles outbreak and can last for weeks or months. It comes in a variety of over-the-counter products, including creams and extended-release patches.

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