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Why You Should Care that Photobiomodulation Helps With Shingles

Shingles is a painful rash that occurs in people who once had chicken pox. Researchers have not yet reached a final agreement on why the virus re-emerges after a dormancy that can last decades. But because it occurs mainly in older people, they believe that a weakened immune system (the immune system, like almost everything else, weakens with age) allows the virus to reassert itself. According to the CDC, almost 1 in 3 people in the U.S. will develop shingles in their lifetime, and although nobody knows why, the rate has been increasing gradually over a long time. The CDC describes shingles this way: “The rash is usually painful, itchy or tingly. These symptoms may precede rash onset by days to weeks. Some people may also have headache, photophobia (sensitivity to bright light), and malaise in the prodromal phase.”

Shingles is not a mortal threat (it only claims 96 lives per year in this country), but it is a painful and debilitating one. It can also have extremely unpleasant and sometimes dangerous complications. That’s why the CDC recommends that adults over 50 be vaccinated against it. One of the two vaccines, Shingrix, is 90% effective at the outset and remains at at least 85% effectiveness for some years afterward.

If you get shingles, you need to be treated with antiviral medication and pain management techniques. Pain management usually consists of NSAIDs, or in severe cases, with opioids. Looking to the future, however, it appears that there may eventually be a place for photobiomodulation (PBM) in the treatment of shingles. A paper published in the Annals of Dermatology reports on a successful study of 28 Korean patients. Half of the patients were treated with an antiviral, and half were treated with the same antiviral plus PBM. The rash of the PBM patients healed 17% faster. In addition, it appears that the PBM patients suffered less pain (as measured by something called the visual analogue scale, or VAS) than the non-PBM patients. The authors wrote, “The pain reduction may have been the result of the anti-inflammatory effects and the improved wound-healing attributed to the LED therapy. Recent reviews concluded on the strong evidence of the low-level laser therapy modulating the inflammatory process and relieving acute pain in the short-term.” They concluded by calling for double-blinded large scale studies of PBM as a therapy for shingles.

It will probably be some time before doctors routinely recommend PBM as a shingles treatment. In the meantime, however, I am struck by the frequency with which PBM turns up in research reports as an effective therapy for a wide range of conditions. I agree with the authors of this particular paper that its effectiveness probably has something to do with its anti-inflammatory and wound-healing effects.

Inflammation and minor wounds might seem like no big deal, but you would probably be surprised to learn how they are affecting your health. You might not even be aware of your chronic inflammation and minor wounds, but they can still sap your vitality. Watch the video on this page to learn how PBM improves cellular health. Then book a PBM session with Peak Recovery & Health Center to find out for yourself. Invest 12 minutes to feel better, look better, and enjoy a new level of vitality. 

Image: the photobiomodulation bed at Peak Recovery & Health Center