A week later there was severe pain in my back. I went out and got an ObusForme for my office chair thinking it was a back problem, but that and heat did not seem to help so I went to a walk-in clinic for help. After an examination the doctor gave me a prescription for muscle relaxants. They did nothing and I was beginning to doubt the evidence of my own body when the pain moved to the front on the same side.
I went on working though the pain was sometimes in the back, sometimes in the front but always intense. Since my regular doctor was still on vacation I went to emergency. The pain was the worst I'd ever had. All the doctor there did was give me a prescription for painkillers which I tried once. When that didn't help I got rid of the pills since they also produced nausea.
So after three doctor visits and three weeks of pain I still had no idea what was wrong with me.
On the weekend our errands included a trip to the local drugstore to pick up a prescription. I started talking to the pharmacist and asking her for ideas to control the pain problems I was having. She asked "Do you have a rash anywhere?" I said yes, I had a very little rash under my belt buckle but assumed it was an irritation. So she said it was likely shingles and I should hurry to the doctor first thing Monday morning. The reason for the rush is that once the rash comes out you need to start anti-viral treatment within 72 hours for the drug to work.
I managed to get an appointment and was given a prescription for Famvir. Unfortunately that made me feel worse than shingles did so I went back to the doctor and she gave me a prescription for Valtrex, another anti-viral which worked well. After a few days I started to feel better.
Shingles is a herpes virus (herpes zoster) and these same drugs are used to treat or prevent other strains of herpes. If you ever had chicken pox there is a chance that you might get shingles, particularly if you are taking immune-suppressing drugs.
Shingles affects defined areas of the body called dermatomes. You can see them in this poster that has been on my doctor's cupboard door for years. She got it from one of the manufacturers of shingles treatments.
If I were not taking immune suppressant drugs currently I would ask for the shingles vaccine. Unfortunately it is a live vaccine and my rheumatologist strongly advises me not to have it.
My advice if you had chicken pox and your immune system is not suppressed would be to ask your doctor about a shingles vaccination.