Chinese Medicine for Shingles

Shingles is the most common cause of chronic nerve pain, and at least 50,000 people seek help for this disease every year. No one who has ever experienced an attack of shin­gles would wish it on their worst enemy. One woman described the pain as “worse than childbirth”, others have considered suicide to relieve the excruciating intensity of the pain.

The initial sign is frequent­ly a tingling sensation, fol­lowed by burning pain and extreme sensitivity, usually distributed along a single nerve on one side of the body, primarily the trunk, although it may occur on the face. Within one to three days, a red rash arises, turning to blisters resembling chicken pox. These blisters last two to three weeks, leaving scars on the affected area.

Until the characteristic symptom of blisters appear, the pain can be misdiagnosed as pleurisy, myocardial infarc­tion, abdominal disease, even migraine. This pain may also be accompanied by other complications including ocu­lar damage or encephalitis.

Herpes Zoster is the med­ical name for shingles, whose torturous pain is referred to as post-hepatic neuralgia. Its sufferers can’t stand the touch of clothing, and a shower is the ultimate torture. The cause of shingles is

still unknown, although there may be a corre­lation with childhood occurences of chickenpox, whose virus is reactivated later in life. The virus may gain a foothold on an older person’s immune system which has been weakened by age or illness.

Toronto physician Dr. Fred Hui believes that Herpes Zoster is an infection caused by a temporary decrease in the body’s resistance to illness, “allowing the virus to multiply and move along nerve fibres towards the skin.” He has also devised what he believes to be “the world’s first breakthrough” in effective treatment for this infection, especially its painful consequences.

Manny of the cases he treats are the compli­cated and difficult ones which have frequently failed to respond to conventional treat­ment. Instead of applying a single system of treatment such as the acyclovir family of antiviral drugs, each patient is evaluated individually and, based upon this evaluation, Dr. Hui will employ a combination of methods to fit the needs of each sufferer. He likens it to “pushing a stalled truck uphill – one person cannot move it, but several willing hands will get it rolling when they push together.” These methods include:

• German neurotherapy, a technique using local anaesthetic nerve blocks • Acupuncture

• Cupping (a Chinese therapy)

• Chinese and Westernherbs

• Qi Gong, a Chinese ener­gy healing technique

• Meditation and relaxation

• Medication, if necessary

The genesis of Dr. Hui’s treatment lies, perhaps, in his early childhood. He grew up in Hong Kong, and was not a particularly robust child. Frail health and asthma saw him in and out of hospitals and exposed to doctors who practised Western and Chinese medicine. Out of this experience on the receiving end of medicine grew a resolve to be a doctor. Eventually he came to Canada to study medicine at the University of Toronto Medical School and went into practice in Toronto in 1980.

In his practice he uses an integrated approach to dis­ease, applying principles of Eastern and Western medi­cine to reflect the needs of his patients.

One of these therapies iscupping, or “bunkus” as it’s known in the Jewish cul­ture, a healing technique with its roots in ancient Egypt. The cup is usually made of glass, although bamboo is another option. The air inside the cup is heated to remove its oxy­gen and to provide the suc­tion when placed over merid­ian points that have been nicked with a scalpel along the appropriate nerve root.

This suction provides a flow of blood from the inter­nal part of the body towards the surface. This siphoning process produces a flushing effect on the headquarters of the shingles, releasing and replacing diseased blood. However, the cupping process can prove too painful for some shingles patients (where the scars on the skin block energy flow), so Dr. Hui employs German neu­rotherapy, wherein a local anaesthetic is injected into the nerve, allowing treatment to proceed.

Dr. Hui also prescribes an assortment of raw Chinese herbs for patients to take on a daily basis. These herbs include:

    Oriental scutellaria root to remove heat and toxins
    Oriental plantain to remove humidity and turbidity
    Oriental bupleuram root to regulate the liver and cir­culation.

“Other herbs,” says Dr Hui, “will be included to meet the individual and specific needs appropriate to each patient.”

Dr. Hui’s best results are with patients who have suf­fered from shingles for less than one year. This is due to the fact that, as the disease progresses, the on-going inflammation may scar the nerves with irreversible dam­age. This does not mean long­term shingle patients have to continue to suffer. “If I fail to solve a problem with the tools from one tool box,” he says, “I often open up several tool boxes simultaneously.”

The role of meditation and relaxation are also valuable for rejuvenating immune power. Practiced regularly they offer “the ultimate bal­ancing of the nervous sys­tem,” says Dr. Hui.

This successful treatment of shingles epitomizes Dr. Hui’s years of learning and employment of differing, but complementary, modalities of treatment. His success rate is high – over 80 per cent. He even has videotapes which document his patients’ opinions of their successful treatment. They are jubilant in their praise of his “tools” and their ability to reduce pain after only a few treatments.

Dr. Hui’s methods are proving so successful that they will be documented in a forthcoming study. Further, it is his dream to see young, graduating physicians devel­op an interest in this combi­nation of Chinese and Western medicine, not only for shingles, but for other infections and diseases.

Dr. Hui also dreams of a treatment centre where visit­ing experts from diverse cul­tures treat problems that can’t be solved through con­ventional methods.

Eastern methods
look to restore the
body’s yin and yang ‑
this restoration of bal‑
ance is the key to
healthy living.

“Western medicine takes a more material/mechanical approach to the body,” says Dr. Hui, “In Eastern cul­tures, however, the body is regarded as a plant. When a plant droops, the gardener looks at its overall condition and works to restore harmo­ny within that plant. So it is with the body. Eastern meth­ods look to restore the body’s yin and yang – this restoration of balance is the key to healthy living.”