Shingles. Nasty business.
I'm writing from my own experience, here. One afternoon in May, 2008, I developed red skin lesions on the upper right quadrant of my body - shoulder, chest, back, right arm. A quick visit to a physician yielded a quick diagnosis.
He gave me a prescription for an anti-viral medication and advised me that I would be glad if I filled and used it - and regret if I did not. I did. I also investigated shingles treatments on-line and added to the regimen of the antiviral medication, the amino acid lysine (which inhibits the replication of the shingles virus), a homeopathic, applications of apple cider vinegar to the skin lesions, and acupuncture, as well as an analgesic, ibuprofen.
Shingles is an outbreak of Herpes Zoster - Chicken Pox virus - that lies dormant in the nerves of the spinal cord until activated, some say, and I would be willing to concur, by stress. I had had chicken pox as a child. My outbreak of shingles started with red skin lesions and progressed to stinging pain in those lesions within a day or so. It progressed to what I call "deep, hard pain" within days.
Here's the nub of the story: I woke up in the middle of the night with pain that went down my right arm to my little finger, pain that felt like my little finger had been hit with a hammer. Since I had already been following the regimen out have outlined, above, I knew that something more was needed, as the pain was … "persuasive."
As a practitioner in the field of somatic education, I have a bit of background beyond what is shared by most people. In my field, I work with people in pain, and sometimes, that pain comes from nerve impingements. I had read that the shingles outbreak originated in the spinal nerve roots, and in particular, in the dorsal root ganglia (for you anatomy aficionados). The dorsal root ganglia are the roots of the sensory nerves, where they exit the spine. Depending on where they exit, they report on sensations from different areas of the body ("dermatomes"). My case involved the dermatomes that corresponded to the nerve roots that exited from C5-T1 vertebrae, and reported on the state of my chest, shoulder, and arm, down to my little finger. My little finger was, it seemed to me, reporting that the nerve roots in my upper spine were being compressed, possibly by inflammation, possibly by the muscular reaction to pain (tightening), possibly the combination. That was an educated guess.
I acted upon it.
I got out of bed, got down on the carpet, and begin to do somatic exercises to induce muscular relaxation in, what my reasoning suggested, was the afflicted area of my spine. Half-an-hour later, the pain had diminished to a feeling like that of a feather brushing my little finger. My reasoning had been correct. I got back into bed.
That's the gist of my story. The outbreak took weeks to end, the lesions, to fade. Three weeks after the initial outbreak, however, I was well enough to deliver a day of training at the yearly Hanna Somatic Education convention in Petaluma, California. I was still suffering, I still had signs of the skin lesions, but I was able to function.
Shingles outbreaks may last one or two months, and lingering, "neurogenic pain" sometimes persists for six months or even years. Neurogenic pain is what I had in my little finger. It's a very deep pain.
We might say that I was fortunate, that I was diligent, that I was resourceful. I recovered unusually quickly. I've had no lingering traces of pain. Though they did nothing to alleviate the pain of the skin lesions, somatic exercises significantly reduced the deep pain of the outbreak.
And that's what I'm writing to report.
If you or someone you know has developed shingles, I suggest you find a Hanna somatic educator who can, at least, alleviate the part of the pain that comes from nerve compression.
The resource shown below may or may not address the specific areas of your spine needed to alleviate the pain of shingles. I provide them as general resources for learning about somatic education. To locate a practitioner, click
in the blue navigation bar at the top of this page.