Tuesday, October 30, 2012

I Figured Out The Nerve Pain...

Thanks for all your comments and experiences with regard to my last post... I've since figured it out though... and we were all wrong... So I guess the good news is that I don't actually have any type of piriformis issue or sciatica or pinched nerve. The bad news is that I've got shingles and it hurts and it sucks.

I'll detail it here just in case any of you ever have to deal with this... it seems quite random and it's not very common especially for younger people... yet somehow I ended up with it? I'll start from the beginning.

I've felt 'off' for a few weeks. Not crazy bad and not like I needed to lay in bed or anything but just like something wasn't quite right. It was enough that I went to my doctor and requested a full blood panel to be drawn- testing everything we could think of hormones and adrenals, etc. To my surprise, everything came back pretty normal and mostly within range, which just made me think I was just imagining not feeling well (Hello am I just completely crazy?? Don't answer that...) ... I will note here that both red and white cell counts were low... hematocrit 35- (evidence I'm not doping! Ha! But this could explain why I don't feel like superwoman when training). White cell count at 4.1- (evidence of a weakened immune system). All other tests came back with normal results.

So then last week I had that shooting nerve pain down the back of my left leg that seemingly came out of nowhere. I thought maybe it was piriformis related but even that seemed odd to me b/c I have not been pushing any limits in training lately. I mean, I know when I'm flirting with overuse injury territory and my recent training would not put me in that category. Yet that nerve pain was real and unrelenting and very bothersome.

Interestingly, when I went to see Magic Man for acupuncture on Friday (two days post start of nerve pain), he noticed a little blistery rash spot right on the acupuncture point he wanted to use for my piriformis. Hmmm. Conicidence? Must be. I easily explained that away as I'd been swimming in the ocean that morning and it's totally commonly to get stung by something that causes a minor itchy rash to pop up and then it goes away within a day or two. No big deal.

When that night I noticed another rash spot appear on that same butt cheek, it was more concerning. I texted Nalani to ask if she'd had any rash/stings from our ocean swim that morning... she said she had... but hers wasn't blistering and hers wasn't spreading so maybe mine was something different?? The whole next day I was searching for an answer to my weird rash and I finally came up with one... must be a side effect from the anti-biotics I was taking (another long story as I gashed the top of my foot a few weeks ago and it had gotten infected so I was on a 7 day course of anti-biotics). I pretty much blamed everything on the anti-biotics... They must have been the reason I was feeling less than 100% and since the package insert listed rash as a possible side effect I assumed that was it.

So then when I woke up Sunday morning and the rash had spread further even though I was done with the course of anti-biotics, well, I was having a hard time ignoring it anymore. The rash was itchy and all the new red blistery spots were lining up in a band but only on that left side. By Sunday night I had like 9 of those spots so I consulted Dr Google and found my answer.


Shingles usually begins with a burning sensation, a mild itching or tingling or a shooting pain in a specific area of skin. The affected area usually is located only on one side of the chest, abdomen or face or on a portion of an arm or leg. The skin may be extremely sensitive, so that you may not be able to stand clothing touching or rubbing the area.
After a few days, the skin becomes red and mildly swollen, and a rash appears. Blisters may cluster in patches or form a continuous line that roughly follows the path of the infected nerve. The blisters may be painful or itchy, and some may be as large as the palm of your hand. Blisters continue to appear over two to seven days and eventually break, form crusts and then heal.
Shingles also can cause fatigue, a low-grade fever and mild muscle aches.


Ah ha! I went to tell Scott that I thought I had shingles and he sort of looked at me like I was crazy and in all honesty I felt sort of crazy even saying that outloud. Great. Now I'm just one of those crazy people who reads too much on the internet and diagnoses herself with random rare diseases. But the pictures of the blisters looked exactly like mine and all the symptoms added up and made sense... Pic below is not actually of me (aren't you glad??) but this is a lot like what mine look like. The spots run right along the nerve line but just on one side- classic shingles.

Interestingly, when you call your doctor and tell the receptionist that you think you might have shingles,  she will have an opening to get you in within the hour, even on a Monday morning!! Amazing how that works. I might add here that being instructed to enter the building through the super secret side door instead of through the front lobby goes a long way toward making you feel like a leper.

Doc took one look at my rash and confirmed shingles. Shingles, really, is just a sort of rare reoccurrence of chicken pox that can come back later in life if/when your immune system is compromised. When I told my mom, she reminded me that I had a really bad case of chicken pox when I was 4.

Anyway, turns out, shingles just gets more and more painful as the days pass by. I've felt like absolute garbage, mostly in bed, for the last 3 days. A lot like severe flu symptoms, really. Achy all over and then that rash hurts like a bitch too (an unrelenting bitch!). So while I've been in bed, I haven't actually been sleeping b/c it all hurts too badly to sleep. Doc gave me Rx for anti-viral meds, viodin for pain, and ambien so I could sleep. You know its bad when it's 2AM and you're up surfing the web desperately looking for an at home remedy for shingles blisters pain because the pain is so bad that the vicodin/ambien combo you took didn't even allow you to sleep. Seriously. I made the mistake of giving in to the urge to SCRATCH last night and oooooh.... aaaaaahhhh... just made it worse. Somebody handcuff me?? I've put coconut oil on them and that has been somewhat soothing but the best thing I've tried was apple cider vinegar. That has actually worked to relieve some of the pain and itching and dries up the blisters a little. Fwiw, paste made from baking soda and water stings like a mofo. Not recommended.

Not sure how much longer I'll be in bed with this? My urge to exercise is a big fat zero. All I really want is some relief from the pain and a little bit of energy. Too much to ask?

Don't take your health for granted. Maybe that's the lesson here.

22 comments:

Iron Krista, "The Dog Mom" said...

SHINGLES? OMG.. You poor thing :(((((((( How long is it supposed to last. My mom used to get it quite often actually. I never really understood what it was…. Oh man.

Glass half full. NO INJURY! ;)

trituba said...

yuck!!! you coudln't find a pic without the sack? LOL! I hope you feel better soon! What about calamine? my mom used to put it in the fridge and then apply it to us.

Steve said...

Love the pic. ;) j/k

Consulted my wife, because she knew someone who had it before, and I forgot what it was. I know it is painful.

You'll be back. No worries. Just a little hiccup. :)

Beth said...

Ugh! Hope you feel better soon. I remember Michelle F had shingles not too long ago...perhaps she has some suggestions!

Kim said...

Oh michelle, i feel your pain...i had shingles...but when i was a kid. And it was bad. I believe they were all over my back. Wishing you some relief and a speedy recovery! (Ps has moana gotten chicken pox? Do kids even get that anymore?)

Michelle Simmons said...

I should have mentioned- Moana has had the vaccine for chicken pox so she *should* be good... and from what I've read it's only contagious to those who have not had chicken pox yet... ie Scott won't get shingles from my shingles...

Jennifer Harrison said...

HOLY CRAP! Shingles is serious, my DR friend had it at the end of the summer and it really knocked her out too...and it is usually caused by stress and all of that stuff...as you know.

I do have to say...that picture...oh....
I do hope you feel better!!!
rest up!

if you want to talk to my DR friend, let me know..she is a Triathlete too.

GoBigGreen said...

When I had shingles I was totally a mess with work, tennis was kicking my butt and to be honest i was RUN.DOWN. I was about 28 yo and i had it T4 ( bra line) my best advice is to rest, let it take its course but when the blisters start to heal you can use Tea Tree Oil, but not when they are open bc it will hurt like Hell.
I will say i still have scars and i still have some weird stuff on that left side so respect this ,hopefully it wont talk back to you in the long run.
Warm bathes, and yes this is the only time in my life i haveEVER taken narcotics. So use em if you need em.

Katie said...

Ugh, how awful! Hope you feel better soon and until then, get some rest :)

Ana-Maria RunTriLive said...

MY good friend Jenn from Runing Sane had shingles over the summer. You may want to email her, super nice. V painful and be careful about scaring, too! But, you will be OK!

mtanner said...

OMG. LOL at that photo! White hotness. Seriously, I will come to Hawaii, fly over and take care of you! and your house, family. You name it! Just take care of yourself! REST, RELAX. REBOUND!!

mtanner said...

OMG LOL at that photo (all I could think of was something not nice!) Seriously!!! DO you want me to come and take care of you> I totally would! Rest up, Recover and then REBOUND baby!

DR said...

boo! hope you feel better soon...

Kiet said...

Mama Simmons, you and me both, been going through some issues myself but just haven't blogged about it but after reading this, I just may. I think it's good to share all aspects of our lives and not just the bed of roses and happy training, Shit-NGLES happens and yes, it does make us realize good health is more important than any training. Rest up!

Angela and David said...

Yikes! Hope you are feeling better. Take care of yourself!

Lizzie said...

Ack, Michelle! I don't comment here much, but feel so badly for you. I got my own reminder about health last week when I threw my back out (by flopping down on our platform bed to pat the neighbor's cat - ha!) and have been out of the loop for the past six days. Also someone who doesn't like to take drugs, so a heated wheat bag has been my best friend :). My Pa had shingles in his 60's - so I guess it really does effect young people :) Hope you feel so much better VERY soon!

Shevaun said...

That stinks. I've had two friend, both under 40, with shingles in the last two years. I've heard it is absolutely miserable. I hope you have a speedy recovery.

Shevaun said...

That stinks. I've had two friend, both under 40, with shingles in the last two years. I've heard it is absolutely miserable. I hope you have a speedy recovery.

Damie said...

Michelle, I couldn't even read the whole post once I saw the ball sack. Did we need to see that? LOL!!!!!!! Hope you feel better....watch out for those viruses...you know how they have kicked my ass this year! I know you are on top of it!

thepumpkinsdiary said...

Sorry Michelle, that sounds absolutely horrible!! I know you're tough and will get through it!!

JB said...

I feel like I know too many Ironman athletes that have succumbed to shingles in recent years... wonder if there's something in the endurance lifestyle that increases the possibility... I suppose you did write *compromised immune system*.

As for the hematocrit... mine never registers above 34 and I take strong (Slow FE) iron tablets twice a day.

Roz said...

Geez Michelle, this is gross and I'm sorry you are dealing with this. At least now you know why you've been off. It's good that you have no desire to exercise because you're body clearly needs some rest. Let me know if there's anything I can do to help - cat sitter, perhaps? Homemade chicken soup? Take care....