PAINWeek 2020: Shingles, The Coronavirus, And 3 Suggestions

As PAINWeek kicks off its 2020 Live Virtual Conference this year, we’re taking a look at some of the latest research regarding shingles (herpes zoster), postherpetic neuralgia (PHN), and the correlations between this long-known condition — which can go from simply pesky to downright hellacious — and the novel coronavirus, COVID-19.

A medical history of chickenpox, chronic health conditions, older age, post-surgery reactions, and a suppressed immune system are all elements that contribute to a higher risk factor for contracting shingles. (Any shockers there?) The body’s ability to resist certain viral and environmental triggers is already compromised; add worry and concern over the coronavirus to an already stressful condition and, in fact, the risk seems to increase further still.

According to a report by DelveInsight, roughly 60% of people over 60 will experience PHN after a shingles outbreak, and that percentage goes up to 75% in folks over 70. PHN occurs when the damaged nerves continue to cause recurring, persistent pain in the area over months or even years — everything from aching and throbbing to stinging and burning, and sometimes all at once.

Psychological stress, depression, anxiety, and sleep disturbance — all common symptoms in a post-COVID world — result in an increase of cortisol, the stress hormone that largely influences the human fight-or-flight response. Ordinarily this would be an immune-boosting response, but when the stimulus is persistent and abiding, inflammation over time increases — and lymphocytes decrease instead.

The latest research studying the psychological antecedents for shingles and their effects on post-outbreak pain confirms the links between stress, lower immune responses, and lingering complications (like HPN) with delayed recovery times.

So first of all, good people, if you’re over 50 (and you haven’t already), get the damn shingles shot from your primary care provider or some other trustworthy dispenser. Truly, the downside of shingles just isn’t worth it!  And unlike COVID (as of yet), shingles has a vaccine — and we know it works.

Secondly, this is a very good time to think about adding some supplemental support to your health & wellness regimen. Our guided meditation for a healthy immune system could be just what you need to juice up your body's ability to fend off random attacks without sending your immune cells into overdrive. More generally, the benefits of our relaxation and wellness meditation have been shown through research to yield dramatic, positive outcomes in reducing stress in Veterans — why not you as well?

If you’ve already noticed yourself feeling slammed by stress or experiencing debilitating pain, our meditations for stress relief and for acute or chronic pain can help soothe distress, bring a sense of balance, and calm those worried thoughts and irritated nerves.

And thirdly, don’t forget the PAINWeek Conference for additional insights and solutions, if you're dealing with this kind of pain.

In summary, Dear Readers: Get vaccinated for shingles. Use guided imagery to keep the stress down and immune function up. And get more intel on solutions for pain at a very fine conference. There’s no time like the present.