Your kid wakes up one morning with flu-like symptoms, and red, itchy blisters from head to toe. Sounds like chickenpox. No big deal. Send them right up to bed to get rest and drink fluids. Stop them from scratching to prevent scar development. The worst part about chickenpox is what lies within the nervous system that can pop up in adulthood…shingles. In this week’s blog, we will talk about how the shingles virus occurs and identify what we can do to help. 

The Little Brother…Chickenpox

The medical term for chickenpox is the varicella-zoster virus. Typically, chickenpox develops in little kids, but adults can get it if they have never had it before and are exposed to an infected person. Chickenpox is very contagious and can last for up to two weeks. The good news about the virus is once you get it, you can never get it again. 

Before a vaccine was introduced, chickenpox was a very common childhood illness. In 1995, the chickenpox vaccine became available to US citizens. In the first 25 years of the vaccine program, it has prevented an estimated 91 million cases, 238,000 hospitalizations, and 2,000 deaths.

The Big Brother…Shingles

Whenever there is good news, conversely, there is also bad news. The bad news is that after individuals become infected with chickenpox, the virus lays dormant in the nervous system and can pop up later in life as shingles.

Shingles can occur anywhere on the body because it follows a nerve root pattern. The most common places shingles will appear are along the thigh, groin, arm, chest, low back, or rib cage. Symptoms are different for everyone, but the classic symptoms include a blister rash, itching, numbness, burning and tingling. Some individuals may get flu like symptoms, but it is rare. Pain intensity varies, but some cases are minimal whereas others are severe.

Shingles typically is not life-threatening; however, complications may occur depending on the location of the virus. Some individuals experience long-term pain and numbness. Others may develop shingles on the nerve roots of the eyes or on the brain resulting in vision loss and further complications. Unfortunately, there is no way of determining where the virus will develop.

Although there is a shingles vaccine, it is not 100% effective. Even TV commercial disclaimers say it is not guaranteed. One major complication of getting the shingles vaccine is that studies show that there is an increased risk of developing a life-threatening neurological disorder known as Guillain-Barre Syndrome. 

Is There Any Way to Avoid Contracting Shingles?

There is only one right answer to this question. Yes. If you didn’t have chickenpox, you can’t get shingles. If you had chickenpox, all bets are off. Shingles can be triggered by stress, a weakened immune system, some medications, etc. 

Can someone with shingles give another individual shingles? No. Shingles has its own way of developing and is not spread through human contact or bacteria. How about chickenpox? Yes, an individual with shingles can infect an individual with chickenpox.

How Can Chiropractors Help?

Shingles is a virus that affects the nervous system. Each nerve root follows a specific pattern that provides motor and sensory function. For example: muscle activation and skin sensation along the bicep is supplied by the C5 nerve root. Muscle activation and skin sensation along the groin is supplied by the L1 nerve root. When a shingles rash is present, it follows that exact nerve root pattern. 

Treatment becomes very simple at a chiropractic facility. At our office, we look at the precise location of the rash and perform a series of adjustments at the exact nerve root level affected. Symptoms may take a while to subside or may be completely resolved after the first treatment. It depends on the severity of the virus affecting the nerve root. 

If you or anyone you know contracts shingles, know that we can help. Some people live years with long-term side effects that can be eliminated with chiropractic care.

If you have any questions about how we can help with shingles, please call us at (724) 547-3377 and check out our website for more information.

Yours in Health,

Brian M. Steinert, D.C.

Larry E. Wilkins, D.C.