Electroacupuncture Reduces Acute, Chronic Pain for Patients with Herpetic Neuralgia

Electroacupuncture was effective for pain control and other symptoms in patients with herpetic neuralgia, though research is limited.

Electroacupuncture may be an effective treatment for herpetic neuralgia patients with acute or chronic pain symptoms, according to a study published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

Though additional research is needed to evaluate the safety of this technique for these patients, electroacupuncture was found to be effective in the control of pain and other symptoms, such as rash healing.

Herpetic neuralgia is the most common and frequent clinical symptom experienced after herpes zoster, and the resulting acute pain may impact patients’ quality of life. Electroacupuncture, defined as combining acupuncture and electric stimulation by inserting acupuncture into acupoints and passing a microcurrent close to human bioelectricity on the needle, has been shown to relieve acute and chronic pain.

Although some studies have demonstrated that electroacupuncture effectively relieves postherpetic neuralgia, there is limited research on the efficacy and safety of electroacupuncture in patients with herpetic neuralgia. Thus, researchers conducted a systemic review and meta-analysis to address the deficiencies of current research.

Researchers comprehensively searched 7 electronic databases from inception to December 31, 2021, for studies to include in their analysis: PubMed, Cochrane Library, Web of Science, China National Knowledge Infrastructure, Chinese Biomedical Literature database, Wang-fang database, and the Chinese Scientific Journals Full-text Database VIP.

Researchers included 6 randomized controlled trials as reporting the application of electroacupuncture for acute herpes zoster pain. These trials included 167 participants in the experimental groups and 174 participants in the control groups.

Outcome measures among these studies included a visual analog scale, times to cessation of pustules, scabs, and rash healing, adverse reactions, and incidence of postherpetic neuralgia.

Generally, the findings indicated that electroacupuncture was effective for pain control in herpetic neuralgia patients. Additionally, electroacupuncture was effective for other symptoms and complications in herpetic neuralgia patients.

Results from the meta-analysis revealed that electroacupuncture was superior to control treatment according to visual analog scale, the time of rash healing, and the incidence of postherpetic neuralgia. Specifically, time to rash healing was considered remarkable by researchers.

However, the results show that electroacupuncture showed no significant difference in terms of the time of cessation of pustules, scabs, and adverse reactions in comparison with the control group. Subgroup analysis indicated that 2/100 Hz-electroacupuncture has more significant effects on herpetic pain.

Sensitivity analyses revealed that the results of electroacupuncture for acute pain control and the rash healing time in herpetic neuralgia patients were stable, though the authors note that a publication bias was observed. Researchers were unable to determine the safety of electroacupuncture for pain control in herpetic neuralgia patients, as only 2 of the included studies reported adverse effects.

Overall, these findings indicate that electroacupuncture could offer certain advantages in treating acute pain in herpetic neuralgia patients. The authors also suggest that electroacupuncture could produce a positive effect in the prevention of postherpetic neuralgia.

However, they recommend future studies to provide more details on the safety profile, regardless of outcomes.

The study had some limitations. The sample size of the studies included in this sample was relatively small, potentially impacting the accuracy of these findings. Additionally, many of these studies were highly heterogeneous. The authors note that methodological quality of the included studies was relatively low, limiting the robustness of the results.

Reference

He K, Ni F, Huang Y, et al. Efficacy and safety of electroacupuncture for pain control in herpes zoster: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2022;2022:4478444. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9273388/. Published July 4, 2022. Accessed July 27, 2022.