Acupuncture for shingles: what does the evidence say?

Shingles is a horrible business! So I was really pleased to see that some evidence is starting to build up around acupuncture for shingles.


Shingles is an infection of the herpes zoster virus, the same one that causes chicken pox, but in this case it’s in the nerves, which is why its notorious as such a painful condition. Often it follows the path of a nerve around one side of your torso, which is bad enough, but it can also happen on the face or other very uncomfortable parts of the body.

If you had chicken pox as a child, shingles can flare up in adulthood if your immune system dips due to ageing or going through a very stressful or draining time in your life. The virus has been dormant in your system all that time, and finally manages to get the upper hand over your immune system.

Pain, itching and a weeping rash are common symptoms.

Postherpetic neuralgia

Postherpetic neuralgia (PHN) can be an unfortunate complication of shingles, with a burning pain that can continue long after your shingles rash itself has cleared.

Risk factors for postherpetic neuralgia include being over 50, having severe shingles or shingles on the face or torso, having other existing conditions such as diabetes, or not receiving prompt treatment for your shingles.

How much research has been done on acupuncture for shingles?

Individual studies can produce conflicing answers, so it’s great if the research has advanced to the stage where scientists have done the kind of studies that are called systematic reviews or meta analyses. These are studies of studies, investigating all of the studies that have been done on this topic, and trying to draw an overall conclusion.

Often we’ll find that acupuncture research is not yet at the stage where this level of research has been done yet, so in this case I was happy to see a number of recent meta analysis studies about acupuncture for shingles and/or acupuncture for postherpetic neuralgia.

What does the research say about acupuncture for shingles (or herpes zoster, HZ)?

Overall, the researchers concluded that more research is still needed, but based on what is available so far, they did have some positive things to say:

Acupuncture may be effective for patients with HZ. Nevertheless, this finding should be validated by conducting high-quality trials with a larger sample size.

Conclusion of a meta analysis in 2021, after analysing the results of 21 randomised controlled trials

And what about acupuncture for postherpetic neuralgia (PHN)?

Acupuncture may reduce pain intensity, relieve anxiety and improve quality of life in patients with PHN. Further randomized trials with larger sample sizes and of higher methodological quality are needed to confirm these results.

Conclusion of a meta analysis in 2018

There was not enough evidence to suggest that acupuncture was superior to pharmacologic therapy in improving global impression or life quality. No adverse effects about acupuncture were reported. In all, acupuncture is safe and might be effective in pain relieving for patients with PHN. Given the low quality of included studies, the results are not conclusive and more large-scale RCTs with high quality are needed.

Conclusion of a meta analysis in 2019

Book in for some acupuncture

If you’re suffering with the horrors of shingles, you have my sympathy! If you’d like to book in for some acupuncture, get in touch, or click here to book:


2018 study: Wang Y, Li W, Peng W, Zhou J, Liu Z. Acupuncture for postherpetic neuralgia: Systematic review and meta-analysis. Medicine (Baltimore). 2018;97(34):e11986. doi:10.1097/MD.0000000000011986

2019 study: Pei W, Zeng J, Lu L, Lin G, Ruan J. Is acupuncture an effective postherpetic neuralgia treatment? A systematic review and meta-analysis. J Pain Res. 2019;12:2155-2165

2021 study: Cui Y, Wang F, Li H, Zhang X, Zhao X, Wang D. Efficacy of Acupuncture for Herpes Zoster: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Complement Med Res. 2021;28(5):463-472. English. doi: 10.1159/000515138. Epub 2021 Apr 6. PMID: 33823512.

Image by Martin Büdenbender from Pixabay

Acupuncture in Moora

Small towns deserve all the same services as big cities! Especially when it comes to our health. The positive evidence base for acupuncture is slowly growing, confirming the benefits for a range of conditions as diverse as hayfever and migraines.

And even Australia’s country doctors are on board – in 2013 a study in regional and rural NSW showed 68% of GPs referring patients for acupuncture at least a few times per year. 

So the good news is that more acupuncture is coming to Moora! From 12 November, I’ll be offering appointments twice a month at the Moora Wellness Centre on Gardiner Street.

Acupuncture for everyone

If you’d like to book in to see how acupuncture may be able to help you, you’ll be in good company.

A a 2005 research project showed that nearly 1 in 10 Australians had used acupuncture within the last year. The study showed more people seeing acupuncturists in NSW, Victoria and Queensland than in our other states, so I’d guess that’s because that’s where it’s been most available.

And acupuncture is on the move across the world, with global acupuncture demand estimated to be climbing at 14.5% per year, as more and more people find out about its benefits.

Joining the Moora Wellness team

“We’re so pleased Jessica’s going to be joining us here at the Moora Wellness Centre!  Moora has a way of drawing people in, and we’re so thrilled Jessica is bringing her wealth of knowledge to practice here. Whether you live in a city or rurally, everyone deserves access to the full range of health services available.”

Joley Holliday, Moora Wellness Centre

Loving the country life

I’ve lived in big cities and tiny villages, and there’s a huge soft spot in my heart for both. When I moved from the UK to Perth, I wasn’t planning to be one of those Perth folk who never leave the metro area, except to fly to Bali! I’ve been out and about in WA, enjoying all the natural beauty this gorgeous state has to offer.

It was passing through Moora on the way back from a camping trip, that inspiration struck. I found myself gazing at the Moora Wellness Centre, and thinking, huh! Then I drove back to Perth, and the natural beauty on the way just blew me away. How can I fit more of this into my life, I was thinking? So I dropped an email to Joley and Marcus…

Back story

What brought me to this point? I studied acupuncture in the UK and qualified in 2005, and built up a busy practice in London. In the end though I couldn’t resist the before the lure of WA’s natural beauty and sunny skies.

I practice two styles of acupuncture in an integrated way – Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Five Element style. These both date back through 2,000 extraordinary years of the history of traditional east Asian medicine. Five Element acupuncture is taught at colleges in the US and Europe, but the full training is not available in Australia, so usually it’s harder to access here.  It has a particular focus on mental and emotional wellbeing.

I’m AHPRA registered and recognised by the health funds.

Book your treatment

If you’re ready to give acupuncture a try, and keen to support a new local service, get in touch, or book online:


Wardle, Jonathan & Sibbritt, David & Adams, Jon. (2013). Acupuncture Referrals in Rural Primary Healthcare: A Survey of General Practitioners in Rural and Regional New South Wales, Australia. Acupuncture in medicine : journal of the British Medical Acupuncture Society. 31. 10.1136/acupmed-2013-010393.

Xue, Charlie & Zhang, Tony & Yang, Angela & Zhang, Claire Shuiqing & Story, David. (2009). Recent developments of acupuncture in Australia and the way forward. Chinese Medicine. 4. 10.1186/1749-8546-4-7. (para 6)

Five Element Acupuncture in Perth

Here I am with a few words about the joys of Five Element acupuncture, from Marie Hopkinson’s fantastic Chinese Medicine Podcast.

Five ElemeFive Element acupuncture interviewnt acupuncture interview

A few quotes…

I think I might be the first person practising Five Element acupuncture in Perth … the thing that’s really special about Five Element is that it really looks at you, the patient, as an individual, in a lot of depth … this is a strength of Chinese Medicine in general … and Five Element takes it to an even deeper level.

Chinese Medicine has this really integrated understanding of how the mind and the body move together … people often have no idea of the things that acupuncture CAN help with … people often don’t think to mention some of the ways they’re not feeling great, unless you ask the questions … people tend to be drawn to the practitioner who is really well suited to what they need.

One thing I really quickly realised, when I was studying acupuncture, and I had my first few patients, is, nobody is dull. Everybody is fascinating. It’s like you sit with someone, and have a conversation with them for like a half hour, and it’s like this beautiful little journey of discovery. And it’s not uncommon that for them it’s a journey of self discovery. Hearing questions, thinking about themselves, feeling really deeply heard, in a way that isn’t commonplace.

So holding that space, really seeing someone, really hearing them, and doing the background thing of ‘what is it that that person needs?’, is a total joy to participate in.