Shingles Pain Like No Other

By: Kathy Trainor

Your know how people say they feel like crawling out of their skin?  I now know the meaning of this phrase.

In July, I had a horrible back ache in my bra line and I felt like I had the flu. Since I work with children, I though it was a virus that would go away.  Even with the most excellent hand washing, it seems like children often end up sharing germs.

One night, I was up all night. Even the touch of my soft sheets made me cry. I lay awake wondering what was wrong. WHY was my skin so sore, burning, numb, and itchy?  Why did I feel so ill when my muscles didn’t hurt.  My hands, arm, and shoulder were numb and weak. Did I hurt myself or was something greater going on?

By 3am I knew I had to go to the doctor. I knew that whatever was wrong with me was more than the stomach bug or flu. Around 7am, after a very painful, tear-filled shower, I was getting changed and I couldn’t even put on my bra. My husband said “Hun, I think you have poison ivy.”

I snapped back, “Ya, ok, I am itchy but poison ivy doesn’t hurt and I have had that in areas it should never be…”

I got dressed, even more mad than before, and I realized I’d have to go to the doctor’s bra-free. (I know, totally exciting.) I knew that Signature Healthcare’s Urgent Care Center opened at 8 a.m. and I really didn’t want to go to the ER.

The nurse checked me in and I sounded like a nut trying to explain I was hurting, burning, itching and numb in a spot that makes and L on my back.  (I was sure she was thinking, “Oh man, it’s Saturday at 8 a.m. and I get a wild one.”)

The PA came in and reviewed everything. She took a deep breath and told me in a calm voice,  “Please don’t be stressed. It’s ok.” ( OK, great, she could see I was losing my mind…)  She looked at my back and touches it ever so lightly. I jumped in pain. She stopped and calmly said,  “I am so sorry. Please know you are ok. You have Shingles.”

She then explained fully what shingles are and how anyone can get them.

Shingles is defined by the Mayo Clinic as:

Shingles is a viral infection that causes a painful rash. Although shingles can occur anywhere on your body, it most often appears as a single stripe of blisters that wraps around either the left or the right side of your torso. Shingles is caused by the varicella-zoster virus — the same virus that causes chickenpox.

Signs and symptoms may include:

-Pain, burning, numbness or tingling
– A red rash that begins a few days after the pain
– Fluid-filled blisters that break open and crust over
– Itching

Some people also experience:

– Fever and chills
– General achiness
– Headache
– Fatigue

Here is what my shoulder looked like:


That may not seem like much, but it feels like someone is stabbing you, punching you and scratching you so deep in your body that even a light brush past you makes you want to drop the ground in full tears.

I was given an anti viral made just for shingles and was told I can’t spread it unless I have someone touch the rash. Since there is nothing topical I can put on it, I knew I wouldn’t spread the rash to anyone.  The pain was managed with over the counter acetaminophen and ibuprofen.

After about 10 days my pain was less and the rash was gone.

Have you ever had Shingles? What was the experience like for you?

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