*For information about my international homeopathy practice, click here.
As a homeopath, I help people to resolve chronic and acute illnesses alike. A chronic illness is defined as an illness that lasts for more than 2 weeks. An acute illness is a self-limiting illness which has the potential to resolve on its own within 2 weeks.
Shingles (a reactivation of the chicken pox virus) is one of those illnesses, I have discovered through my own recent (and painful) experience, which is acute in nature but has the potential to become a chronic manifestation of pain: a condition called PHN, or postherpetic neuralgia. So this case study is a description of an acute condition which, luckily, did not became chronic. My own case of shingles!
What is Shingles, Exactly?
Shingles (herpes zoster) is a skin eruption caused by a reactivation of the chicken pox virus (varicella) which has been lying dormant within the nervous system. The virus becomes activated during times of high stress in which the immune system becomes compromised. The virus travels down a particular nerve path causing pain and skin eruptions at the nerve endings along that path.
Symptoms of shingles include:
– lesions on the skin which follow the nerve line in which the virus has been activated.
-pain deep in the skin, muscles, organs and tissues along the nerve line
– flu-like symptoms: headache, fever, body aches
In some cases of shingles, the nerve pain can become chronic, a condition called PHN, or postherpetic neuralgia. PHN can last weeks, months, years, or a lifetime after the acute phase of the illness is over.
How Did I Experience Shingles?
The symptoms started out as pain in my left hip. Ironically, I have several “pain” patients right now, two of which suffer from pain in the hips. My first thought was that I am taking on their pain as my own little psychosomatic manifestation of illness! With this, I decided not to panic and figured…ok, when I can make the time to get back to yoga and meditation, I will shed this pain easily. However, over the course of several days the pain increased and spread deep into my groin, lower back, and inner thigh. And it burned! I could even feel pain within my organs! My left kidney, the left side of my uterus, the left side of my bladder, the left side of my large intestines all ached!
At this point I started to think that maybe I had an inflammed kidney (as I have a history of “sluggish” kidneys at times) which was radiating pain. I had a session of reiki that night, felt a bit better, and fell asleep. I woke up the next morning and discovered that lesions had erupted on my lower back. Right above where the pain had been! I took this as a detox reaction (sometimes people will experience a skin rash after starting a new homeopathic remedy or having some other form of healing work done on them). But the pain continued into the next day, the rash had now spread to my left hip and thigh, and it occurred to me: this is no “detox rash”… this appears to be symptoms of shingles!
If I can digress for a moment, however, according to homeopathic philosophy, as we heal, our bodies tend to bring back old illnesses from the past which have been “suppressed” in some way (and is now causing deeper chronic issues, perhaps on an emotional or mental level). During my own case of the chicken pox at the age of 8, my parents administered good ole’ aspirin as a fever-reducer, resulting in a trip to CHOP (Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia) for an EEG after I developed hallucinations and combative behavior resulting in a diagnosis of Reye Syndrome! So I ask myself to this day, was my body bringing back varicella (the virus that causes chicken pox) to clear out the long-term effects of suppressed chicken pox? Perhaps this was a “detox reaction” after all (to some recent homeopathic remedies I had taken for anxiety)! And in the case of most people, when shingles arrives as an adult, the virus gets suppressed once more with antivirals. Could this type of “cycle of suppression” be why society is so run-down with epidemics of chronic illness? Hmmm…
Could this type of “cycle of suppression” be why society is so run-down with epidemics of chronic illness?
Conventional or Homeopathic Treatment? How I decided.
After realizing I may have shingles, I did what most people do: I went to the doctor. Dr. “Google”! I went looking for images and descriptions. Sure enough, what I had was shingles.
I’m not going to lie. I got scared. Why? Because I knew that I would not use conventional meds, but the threat of postherpetic neuralgia made me realize the risk I was taking to avoid long-term side effects of the meds I was reading about. As with any condition, I wondered, do I want to risk a lifetime of this awful pain or do I want to risk a lifetime of medication side effects? Well the choice, for me, was obvious (if you know my family’s history, you know we have suffered at the hands of pharmaceuticals several times over). But the choice was scary, nonetheless!
The pain from this virus lasted a little over 4 weeks (not bad being that the average patient’s pain, when occurring in a similar location, takes an average of 3 months to resolve). I didn’t once use conventional antivirals or pain medications (opting instead to take a look at my life during moments of agony to determine what it was that was creating such stress and therefore a compromised immune system…nothing creates a needed dramatic shift in perception than pain, I concluded). I even developed moderate flu-like symptoms at one point, which sent me to bed for about 24 hours. Still, I used no pain meds or fever-reducers. I was determined to get this over and done with!
You see, I firmly believe that some medications suppress the immune system and I believe in allowing viruses to “run their course”. Conventional medical doctors treat the virus with antivirals such as acyclovir, and the pain with painkillers, and possibly antihistamines. If a patient suffers from postherpetic neuralgia, antidepressants or anticonvulsants may be prescribed.
I pulled out my homeopathy books and opened up my computer software program and went to work on developing my homeopathic medicine protocol. I am also lucky enough that my dear friend, colleague, and office-mate, Dr. Aaron Bronson at The Good Life Center in Palm Beach Gardens, FL, treated me several times per week with modified chiropractic adjustments and myofacial release. And I can also tell you that I spent a LOT of time in a hot bathtub!
This was one of the more painful experiences I’ve been through! It hurt to wear clothes, it hurt to move and walk, it hurt to urinate, it hurt to sit down, it hurt to stand up, it hurt to lie down. It hurt to exist!! I even experienced a few bouts of urinary incontinence!
My only relief was bath-time, bedtime, and the moments when I hit on just the right homeopathic remedy “cocktail”, as you will see!
Homeopathic (and Other) Remedies for Shingles
So which magical remedies helped me through this excruciating virus? I’m going to list them here, along with some others which have been known to help with shingles, but which did not exactly fit my own presentation of the virus.
Herpes Zoster Nosode: you got it! a remedy made from the virus itself! I bounced back and forth between the 30c potency and the 200c potency. *Due to my vast use of, and miraculous results with, nosodes, I wasn’t going to pass this one up. However there is a school of thought which says that nosodes are “suppressive” or not necessary. In this case a few doses of Herpes Zoster Nosode put some of my fears of long-term pain at bay.
Rhus Toxicodendron: right-sided eruption and pain, itching and burning, chilly and restless, better for warmth and movement (may hurt upon initial movement and then feel better with continued movement), thirsty for large drinks of water. *While my shingles appeared on the left side, this remedy did alleviate some of the pain at times, I suspect due to the fact that I was greatly alleviated during my warm baths. This was also my primary remedy when I developed flu-like symptoms for 24 hours.
Arsenicum album: burning intensely, better with applied heat, worse midnight to 3am, anxiety, chilliness, restless, weakness, thirsty for small sips of water; patient may move from bed to bed. *This remedy was especially useful because of a recent “emotional upset” I had experienced which fit the symptom picture of arsenicum.
Prunus Spinosa: intractable pain, trigeminal neuralgia, eye pain. *This one did a lot for the pain during the first 3 weeks, helping at least 75% of the time.
Ranunculus bulbosus: burning, itching vesicles filled with thin fluid; severe neuralgic pains, pain worse from wet weather, with touch, with motion or lying on rash; especially helpful for chest or back eruptions; severe pain between ribs. *This one was miraculous for my pain during the last few days of my illness, completely aborting the pain permanently.
*Toward the end of my treatment, I also started a new constitutional remedy (based on mental and emotional symptoms I was experiencing) which may have helped push me further toward the end of the chronic pain.
These next medicines are remedies which I did not use, but may be useful in some cases of shingles.
Mezereum: scabs with pus underneath; itching; severe burning, stinging, and lightning-like neuralgic pain; worse from heat, touch, bathing; chilly.
Sulphur: burning, better for cold applications.
Iris versicolor: right side of abdomen or chest; small blisters with dark points.
In addition to homeopathic medicines, I also enhanced my diet with fresh vegetable juice (when I could get to the Whole Foods juice bar) and several supplements and essential oils:
L-lysine: an amino acid known to have antiviral properties.
Virastop: an enzyme which helps to break down the walls of the virus.
Vitamin A: 10,000 IU for a week.
Vit. C: 2000-5000 mg per day.
Zinc: 60 mg per day.
Essential Oils: lavendar, melaleuca, lemon, oregano, and bergamot (not directly on the lesions)
While I was using many remedies, oils and vitamins, I knew the remedies were having the biggest impact on my pain because there were moments when I would hit on just the right “cocktail” (the right combination of remedies and frequency and potency of dosing) which would make the pain abate immediately. This required a constant adjustment of remedies (oftentimes the acute remedies that help in the beginning of an illness will not help you in the middle or the end of an illness) to maintain pain relief and I didn’t always get it right, but in the end my pain ceased in 4 weeks, not months or years as in some cases. And for this I am grateful!
And I have a new perspective on my life, how I treat my body, and what my pain patients go through on their way to recovery. This kind of “education” is priceless.
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