Shingles, Back Pain & Surgery

Category: Back Pain, Minimally Invasive Surgery | Author: Stefano Sinicropi

shinglesShingles is a painful condition that stems from the same virus that causes the chicken pox. It can cause extreme pain and is most common in older adults. This article will focus on shingles – its causes and symptoms, and the numerous treatment options. Specifically, we will answer the question: is spine surgery ever a good treatment option for shingles pain?

Causes & Symptoms of Shingles

Shingles is caused by the varicella zoster virus (the same virus that causes chicken pox). The virus never goes away – if you’ve had chicken pox, you’re living with the virus right now. However, it lays dormant with no symptoms for most of a patient’s life. Sometimes, typically in older patients, the virus can awaken and cause pain.

Symptoms of shingles can include all of the following:

  • A red rash on the face, torso, or extremities.
  • Headaches or light sensitivity.
  • Itching, numbness, or pain around the area of the rash.
  • Flu-like symptoms such as dizziness, fatigue, and weakness.

The virus usually runs its course and returns to dormancy on its own. The time frame for this varies significantly. Some patients only experience symptoms for a few weeks, while others can continue dealing with the pain for years. Common treatment methods include: topical creams, prescription pain medications, antiviral meds, and more. These treatments will typically provide sufficient pain relief while the shingles virus runs its course. In very rare cases, more extreme measures are required.

Is Surgery ever a Good Option?

Typically, shingles is much better treated with conservative, non-surgical options. There are many treatments that do not involve surgery that a patient should attempt prior to surgery. However, in extreme cases involving postherpetic neuralgia, surgery may indeed be the best option for relieving pain in the long term. Talk with your doctor about your options for treatment if you are suffering from shingles.

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