Just by definition, chronic pain is something that is difficult to prevent. When something is chronic... it's chronic. But we all know that with almost every pain condition, there are things we can do to "manage the pain." "Manage" in this context has to do with limiting the pain, limiting how the pain interferes with our lives, and sometimes, managing our lives around the pain. When you have chronic pain, "preventing" pain is, most of the time, wishful thinking. "Managing pain" becomes a lifestyle. The right amount of sleep, proper diet, the right amount of activity, limited stress, routines, supportive family and friends, the right pain treatments--to name a few--are all ingredients in "managing pain."
Rare as it is, we do have at our doorstep a remarkable opportunity to genuinely prevent or severely limit a common, and sometimes horrific pain condition--shingles, and its sometimes consequence, post herpetic neuralgia. Shingles is a disease caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox. After a person has chickenpox, the chickenpox virus remains inactive in the body residing along certain nerves. If the virus becomes active again, usually later in life, it causes shingles. Shingles can cause anything from itching to mild pain, to severe pain. Usually there is a rash followed by fluid-filled blisters. Shingles can lead to a long-lasting, sometimes severe, pain called post herpetic neuralgia.
If you had chickenpox anytime in life, you can get shingles. Your risk goes up the older you get or any time when your immune system has been weakened. In severe cases, shingles and post herpetic neuralgia can be horribly painful. But here is the good news: there now is a vaccine, Zostavax, which can help to prevent the occurrence of shingles or reduce its severity if it does occur.
I would like to think that there will be a day when we will be talking about shingles as if it were ancient, eradicated pain disease. We just had Thanksgiving and in my mind, being thankful for the possible eradication of a common pain condition is something to be thankful for.
Published On: November 30, 2007