Shingles, a painful disease related to the chickenpox virus, has many traditional and natural medical management options; however, chiropractic care can also assist those who suffer.
What is Shingles?
Shingles is a very painful, blistering rash. It is known that that chickenpox virus leads to shingles. Shingles (herpes zoster) is caused by the “reactivation in the body of the varicella-zoster virus, the cause of chicken pox”.1 Shingles is most likely to be found in people over 60, in those who had chickenpox as an infant, and in the immune-compromised (due to medications or disease). The disease may be first noticed by a “one-sided pain, tingling, or burning”. Next, red patches and a rash of blisters appear, which will last about 3 weeks. Shingles often leads to fever, headache, soreness, abdominal and joint pain, and sores. When it attacks the face, it can lead to drooping eyelids, muscle movement issues, and hearing, tasting, and vision problems.2
“Exposure to children with chickenpox helps act like a booster shot to the immune system”; however, the elderly and the immune-compromised are at risk for developing shingles. The fact that the aging population has increased may demonstrate that hospitalization from shingles could be on the rise. The general medical thought is that the chickenpox vaccine will decrease the future incidence of shingles; however current studies are being done to see if that will be the case. The shingles vaccine is a stronger version of the chickenpox vaccine.3 Medical treatments tend to focus on antiviral medications to shorten the disease’s course, such as acyclovir, famciclovir, and valacyclovir. In addition, doctors may also prescribe anti-inflammatory steroids, antihistamines, pain medications, and a capsaicin (pepper extract) cream called Zostrix. The disease, while the sores are oozing, is infectious. A complication of shingles, postherpetic neuralgia, can lead to years-long pain in the area that had the rash. While the virus can clear up in weeks, and it rarely recurs, some patients can have permanent nerve damage, weakness, or paralysis. Other complications of shingles can include bacterial infections, deafness, and blindness.4
Medications can carry serious side effects. Chiropractors aim to minimize the use of medications and invasive procedures. Instead of treating symptoms, they work towards resolving or mitigating the underlying problem. While medical doctors may prescribe creams, painkillers, and anti-depressants, chiropractors work with the patient on strengthening the immune system. Patients may be asked to take supplements, or alter their diet, to change the ratio of lysine and arginine. Lysine needs to exceed the arginine. Spinal adjustments can help with the misalignment and subluxations of the patient. For topical relief during an outbreak, patients can use more natural treatments, such as apple cider vinegar and cayenne pepper on a rag, with some heat applied. During shingles outbreaks, lysine supplementation may be appropriate, as well as colloidal silver and vitamin C, to boost the immune system.5