The word "shingles" means zone or band. Shingles is a viral
infection of a nerve and corresponding skin band overlying the nerve. The
distribution of the skin lesions follows the nerve. The skin lesions are
characterized by small blisters filled with pale tan fluid surrounded by
redness. The skin eruption develops in an area of pain and discomfort which
precedes the eruption by about three to seven days.
Shingles represents an acute reactivation of an infection by the
chickenpox virus or Varicella. Since the primary attack of chickenpox, the virus
has remained dormant in the sensory nerve center or ganglion.
Shingles occurs in approximately 2 of every 1,000 persons per year,
increasing in incidence with age. It is rare in childhood and most frequently
seen in persons over age 50. Half the people reaching 85 have suffered at least
one attack of shingles. Rates are higher in persons with malignancies or
diabetes and inpatients receiving any kind of immunosuppressant drugs such as
cortisone or antihistamines,1 or patients who have received radiation
While chickenpox has usually been suffered by the patient in childhood,
it occasionally happens that, 2-5 weeks after exposure of an older person to
childhood chickenpox, the older person comes down with shingles. Chickenpox can
be contracted from a patient with shingles.2
The usual drug medications used in treatment of shingles are all
worthless and should not be used. Especially cortisone should not be used,
because while it may reduce the pain, there is a significant risk of widespread
scattering of the shingles and a fatal complication.3 It has been
reported that cortisone therapy used for another condition activated a case of
shingles.4 Penicillin is also reported to have activated a case of
shingles. Shingles should be treated early, and the usual pain killers,
cortisone, and other medications do not help shorten the course of the case. One
report a number of years ago said "Analgesics, sympathy, and a liberal
helping of hope are all the doctor at present has to offer."2
Not much has changed since then.
eruption of shingles is often preceded by feeling bad and fever for 2 or 4 days,
then pain or some kind of sensory unpleasantness along the skin overlying the
nerve where the rash will break out, usually five days after the pain starts.
The pain begins with superficial tingling or burning sensation and varies from
deep severe pain suggesting appendicitis or gallbladder attack, pleurisy, or
other problem, to a very mild itching. The pain may be intermittent or
constant. The regional lymph nodes may enlarge. After the skin lesions have
cleared up entirely, the pain over the area often persists for months or even
years, especially in older people. This persistent pain is called post herpetic
most common place for shingles is on the chest, being involved in over two-thirds
of cases. The head is next in frequency, and headache may be a common symptom in
any case of shingles. It may even involve the eye, with resulting blindness. A
person may have more than one attack of shingles; in fact, it is slightly more
likely that one will have a second attack.
home remedies for treating shingles have been quite effective, and we recommend
many of these remedies as being capable of assisting in pain and in preventing
post herpetic neuralgia.
important thing that can reduce pain is the wearing of a snug fitting body suit
that does not slip across the skin, as light touch of the clothing moving across
the skin seems particularly irritating. Any garment fixed firmly against the
skin that does not move tends to give relief from the rubbing of lightweight
drafts should be avoided, both to prevent the development of shingles and to
hasten the healing. Rough washing of the skin eruptions should be avoided, as
the skin is quite tender and may be made to crack by rough handling. During the
time when blisters are present, the area should not be bandaged, except by a
light gauze that may prevent staining of the clothing from the blisters.
compresses to the skin may give much relief. Applying a wet dressing in which a
wet cloth is laid over the area and allowed to evaporate until dry gives
considerable comfort. Calamine lotion may be used in the same way, since the
water (actually the most active ingredient in Calamine lotion) is soothing as it
heat in the form of hot compresses or fomentations may be used to good
advantage. The application of a thermophore or heating pad can be most helpful.
charcoal compress applied over the skin lesions in a wide band has been
effective in reducing the likelihood of the dreaded post herpetic neuralgia.
Charcoal tablets by mouth are also helpful. Such general measures as sun
baths, total body massage, exercise to tolerance, and a simple diet of fruits,
vegetables, and whole grains (avoiding fats, sugars, and all refined nutrients,
including nutritional supplements) are helpful.
dusting powder, common corn starch, or talcum may be used on the skin to assist
in pain control. In the acute stage, melted paraffin has been used, applied to
the skin by a cotton sponge and allowed to harden while making successive
applications of fresh liquid paraffin until a thick layer, one-quarter to
one-third inch thick, has been accomplished. A thick dressing of absorbent
cotton followed by gauze taped in place to apply slight pressure can be
miraculous in reducing pain. It can also be tried for post-herpetic neuralgia,
but is less effective in these cases.5
neuralgia can be nicely treated by ice massage. The technique is quite simple.
Place a towel in a position to catch the runoff water and hold a cube of ice in
a wash cloth while gently rubbing the skin over the entire area back and
forth, up and down, keeping the ice moving. After about 12-20 minutes the pain
should be much relieved, and relief should continue for at least four hours, and
in many cases, overnight. The ice massage may be repeated as often as 2 or 3
times daily, but is usually unnecessary more often than once in 24 hours.6
A paper or styrofoarn cup may be filled with water and frozen; this can be used
in place of the ice cube. Just cut or peal away the bottom of the cup, then
place this bottom portion on the top of the ice to protect your hand from the
cold as you massage. Continue to peal away the bottom of the cup as the ice
melts. Because of the tapered shape of the cup, the ice will not fall out the
narrow bottom end.
nice treatment for the post-herpetic neuralgia is the application of a
tincture of cayenne. The daily application of this tincture will take up p
substance, a neurotransmitter of the pain impulse. To make the tincture, place a
quantity of cayenne pepper in a jar and then pour in enough rubbing alcohol to
cover the pepper by one to two inches. Swirl the mixture daily for three weeks.
At the end of this time, pour the alcohol into a clean jar and discard the
pepper. Simply rub the resulting capsaicin-laden alcohol tincture over the area
of pain daily until all symptoms cease. Be careful not to get this mixture in
is a good idea to make this tincture up ahead of time as it takes three weeks to
gain its full strength. It may, however, be used after even the first day. Once
made, store it in a dark bottle and it will keep indefinitely. Mark it well and
never, never use it internally.
tincture can also be used for arthritic pain, and other pains in the joints
and muscles, much the same as you would use such products as Heet and Nostrix.
scarring of the skin and permanent muscle weakness and neuralgia are
occasional complications of shingles.7 The extent, duration, and dissemination
of lesions in shingles are inversely related to the amount of interferon found
in the vesicles, and this affects the course of the disease. Anything that will
increase the effectiveness of the immune system, such as exercise, a simple
diet-even fasting a meal or two, freedom from stress, heat treatments, a cold
mitten friction treatment, healthful clothing warm and loose, and an abundance
of fresh air, water and sunshine, should help produce interferon.
The Lancet, December 18, 1971, pgs 1349-1350
British Medical Journal, January 6, 1979, pg 5
Modem Medicine, July, 1981, pg 79
The Lancet, January 15, 1972, pg 151
Journal of the American Medical Association 79(24):1979-1980, December 2,1922
Physiotherapy 57:374, August, 1971
American Journal of Nursing 54 (10):1217-1219, October, 1954
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is provided courtesy of the Uchee Pines
Health Institute. The Uchee Pines Institute was started almost 30 years ago
by Calvin Thrash, M.D., specialist in Internal Medicine, and his wife, Agatha
Thrash, M.D., board specialist in pathology. It is a non-profit, health
educational and treatment facility located in the country near Seale, Alabama,
15 miles from Columbus, Georgia. (Address: Uchee Pines Institute, 30
Uchee Pines Road
Seale, Alabama 36875-5702. Phone: (334) 855-4764. Fax: (334) 855-4780. Email: email@example.com. Location Map: Click Here). The information contained in the counseling sheets is presented as a general educational and information guide. The counseling sheets are not intended to be used for instruction in medical treatment. The author cannot assume the medical or legal responsibility of having this information misinterpreted and considered as a prescription for any condition or any person.