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Airing Pain 129: Shingles & PHN (Post Herpetic Neuralgia)

Deter­min­ing what Shin­gles real­ly is and why vac­cine uptake is so low?

This edi­tion of Air­ing Pain has been fund­ed by a grant from The RS Mac­don­ald Char­i­ta­ble Trust and The Stafford Trust

What exact­ly is Shin­gles? We often hear it thrown into con­ver­sa­tion along­side a virus many of us have already had: Chick­en­pox. So how are the two linked? Why is one more asso­ci­at­ed with young peo­ple and the oth­er with old­er peo­ple? The answer is they are both infec­tions caused by the vari­cel­la-zoster virus. The vast major­i­ty of us had the Chick­en­pox virus when we were chil­dren, with many par­ents even inten­tion­al­ly expos­ing their chil­dren to the virus. Shin­gles, on the oth­er hand, occurs after some­one has already had Chick­en­pox when the virus (which remains in the body) is reactivated.

One of the main wor­ries peo­ple have about hav­ing Shin­gles is the poten­tial to devel­op Post Her­pet­ic Neu­ral­gia (PHN). This is defined as per­sis­tent pain 3 months after the ini­tial rash devel­oped. Unfor­tu­nate­ly PHN is a chron­ic con­di­tion which caus­es burn­ing neu­ro­path­ic pain. This con­di­tion is caused by the dam­age the virus inflict­ed dur­ing its reactivation.

Paul Evans speaks to health pro­fes­sion­als and some­body with lived expe­ri­ence of Shin­gles & PHN in order to illu­mi­nate the intri­ca­cies of the vari­cel­la-zoster virus, how it works and how it affects us through­out our lives.

Issues cov­ered in this pro­gramme include: Shin­gles, Chick­en­pox, vari­cel­la-zoster virus, neuro­path­ic pain, Post Her­pet­ic Neu­ral­gia, pain man­age­ment, virus reac­ti­va­tion, insom­nia, vac­ci­na­tion, vac­cine uptake, side effects, amitripty­line, Gabapenti­noids and depres­sion.

Time Stamps:

1:55 — Dr Michael Ser­pell speaks: What is Shin­gles and how does it affect us?
6:15 — Dr Robert John­son speaks: What is Post Her­pet­ic Neu­ral­gia (PHN)?
11:35 — Jan Fish­er, who has lived with PHN for 8 years, speaks about her expe­ri­ence.
14:55 — Mar­i­an Nichol­son from the Shin­gles Sup­port Soci­ety speaks: Shin­gles aware­ness, treat­ment & what to do if you think you have Shin­gles?
16:55 — Dr Robert John­son speaks about treat­ment for Shin­gles & PHN.
20:05 — Jan Fish­er elab­o­rates on her own expe­ri­ence of med­ica­tion for PHN.
21:25 — Dr Michael Ser­pell on what you can expect from PHN treat­ment & pain man­age­ment tech­niques.
26:10 — Dr Robert John­son dis­cuss­es the Shin­gles vac­ci­na­tion.
26: 45- Mar­i­an Nichol­son speaks about the roll­out of the Shin­gles vac­ci­na­tion and who is eli­gi­ble.
27:45 — Dr Robert speaks about the low uptake of the vac­cine and why it’s impor­tant to get it.
33:11 — Dr Robert John­son on amitripty­line and stud­ies on pre­vent­ing PHN.
35:15 — Final words from Jan Fish­er on why you should get the Shin­gles vaccine.


  • Dr Michael Ser­pell, Con­sul­tant in Anaes­the­sia & Pain Med­i­cine at Stob­hill Hos­pi­tal Glasgow.
  • Mar­i­an Nichol­son, Direc­tor of the Her­pes Virus­es Asso­ci­a­tion & Shin­gles Sup­port Society.
  • Dr Robert John­son, Hon­orary Senior Research Fel­low, Bris­tol Med­ical School, Uni­ver­si­ty of Bristol.
  • Jan Fish­er, had the Shin­gles virus & lives with Post Her­pet­ic Neuralgia.

More infor­ma­tion: 


Frederick Malyon

I have had nuer­al­ger after shin­gles for 8+years and I have not had any­body said that you can get releaf and if you can take tablets with in 24 hrs of get­ting shin­gles ! Of course I did­n’t get the tables ! Is there any­thing that can be tak­en to take away or relieve the pain

Hi Fred­er­ick,
Unfor­tu­nate­ly we are unable to give you med­ical advice at Pain Con­cern. How­ev­er, we hope that the Air­ing Pain pro­gramme will pro­vide you with more infor­ma­tion on man­ag­ing shin­gles pain. We also have a leaflet on neu­ro­path­ic pain which you can find by click­ing on the fol­low­ing link:
I hope that helps.

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