In Harald Gaier's article about shingles in WDDTY (vol 13 no 9, p 6), Dr Gaier quoted from the Shanghai College text that acupuncture is not appropriate for shingles - this is a misquote as the book is only referring to cutaneous acupuncture.
Traditional Chinese Acupuncture is renowned for being highly effective in the treatment of herpes zoster, and I can vouch for this myself, having successfully treated it on several occasions - and the earlier you treat after the onset, the better. - Jane E. Robinson, Yeovil, Somerset
Letters to the editor. . . and acupuncture long used to cure shingles I have always appreciated Harald Gaier's articles in WDDTY.
However, concerning his advice that 'acupuncture and cupping should never be used on patients with herpes zoster', I can assure you that herpes zoster can be treated extremely successfully by acupuncture.
What the book does say is that 'cutaneous acupuncture and cupping is contraindicated for cases of herpes zoster'. Cutaneous acupuncture is not the same as the acupuncture that is commonly used to treat herpes zoster. It is a different form of treatment and one that is rarely used by most acupuncturists. It is carried out by tapping on the skin with a special lightweight 'hammer' rather than by inserting acupuncture needles.
I have observed the treatment of shingles with acupuncture on many patients in a Chinese hospital, and we also teach the treatment in our college. - Angela Hicks, Joint principal, College of Integrated Chinese Medicine, Reading, Berks
Harald Gaier replies:
In my article, I meant that standard acupuncture or cupping should never be used directly on the herpes lesions, and I apologise for not making that clearer.
However, I am well aware that herpes zoster is frequently treated by a needling method called 'surrounding the dragon', where acupuncture needles, inserted in healthy skin around the lesion, in effect 'fence' it in.
Although I know that acupuncture is a standard treatment for herpes, I have not seen any scientific evidence for its effectiveness. Remember that my remit in my Alternatives column is to report on peer-reviewed scientific evidence of success of any alternative treatments.
If any acupuncturists know of any such evidence for treatment of herpes, I'd be interested to see it. Otherwise, perhaps one of the colleges would like to carry out such a study.