Thursday, April 25, 2024

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Chronic Pain Handbook: Shingles

With the advent of the chicken pox vaccine, the actual illness is becoming less and less common. However, for those of us who experienced the chicken pox as children, there are lingering memories of the annoying itch, the frustrating scabbing, and other common symptoms that came with this childhood right of passage. Additionally, for those of us who have had chicken pox as a child, we are at risk later in life for a further issue to arise, shingles.

What is Shingles?

Shingles is caused by the same virus that causes Chicken Pox. This virus lies dormant in your system, specifically in nerve tissue near your spinal cord and brain. Different factors trigger this dormant virus to become live again causing, in most cases, a rash or strip of painful blisters to appear. Some people also experience fever, headache, and fatigue, but the issue most people emphasize when discussing shingles is the pain. According to the Mayo Clinic, “depending on the location of the pain, it can sometimes be mistaken for a symptom of problems affecting the heart, lungs, or kidneys.” This is frequently found when an individual is experiencing the pain without observing or having the rash, which is not uncommon. Individuals over the age of 50, those with lowered immunity, those undergoing cancer treatment, and certain medications can increase your risk for this contagious disease. 


For the actual virus, including the sores and the scabs they create, there are some treatment options. A primary goal would be to keep the area clean and to let it run its course. Some doctors may prescribe an anti-viral medication depending on the speed with which the virus was diagnosed. While the blisters and scabs can be frustrating and slightly uncomfortable, most people experience relief within 2 weeks, but sometimes symptoms are felt longer. Treating the severe pain can be more difficult, however. Considering that a small percentage of the population will continue to experience pain for months after the signs of shingles goes away, there will be a substantial number of patients looking for pain remedies within the initial few weeks or beyond.

Pain Relief

There are a few options we can explore at Republic Pain Specialists to relieve any immediate or lingering pain from an outbreak of shingles. Our first suggestion would be to attempt managing pain at home with an over the counter numbing spray or cooling agent to relieve that topical irritation. A cool bath or compresses will help those impacted areas as well. For deeper, nerve based damage, we can step in for further intervention. There are a few areas we can explore, including some nerve based injections if the pain is severe enough or has lingered far beyond the usual course of the virus. Due to the virus being so closely associated with the nerves of the body, having nerve pain, and occasionally, nerve damage, is not uncommon. Thus, we may explore options very similar to other nerve pain relief options in our clinic.

To discuss the pain you are experiencing from shingles, or from any other issue, contact us today. Our medical staff has your pain relief and getting you back to your normal lifestyle as soon as possible. 




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