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How To Treat Nerve Pain Caused By Shingles
This article was medically reviewed by Luba Lee, FNP-BC, MS. Luba Lee, FNP-BC is a board certified Family Nurse Practitioner and educator in Tennessee with over a decade of clinical experience. Luba has certifications in Pediatric Advanced Life Support , Emergency Medicine, Advanced Cardiac Life Support , Team Building, and Critical Care Nursing. She received her Master of Science in Nursing from the University of Tennessee in 2006.There are 31 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page.wikiHow marks an article as reader-approved once it receives enough positive feedback. In this case, 84% of readers who voted found the article helpful, earning it our reader-approved status. This article has been viewed 88,320 times.
Can I Prevent It
The FDA has approved two shingles vaccines, Zostavax and Shingrix. A vaccine is now recommended for everyone 60 and older. People from 50 to 59 may want to talk to their doctor about it if they have ongoing pain or skin issues or have a weakened immune system.
The vaccines cut the chance of shingles by at least 50%. Even if you still get shingles, the painful period is shortened and you reduce your risk of postherpetic neuralgia.
Early treatment for shingles can also lower your chances of getting this complication. So if you think you have it, call your doctor right away. The main treatment is with antiviral drugs during the early stages of shingles, within 2 to 3 days of symptoms coming on. Medications used include:
Recommended Reading: How To Stop Itching And Burning From Shingles
Soak In A Colloidal Oatmeal Bath
This DYI option hasnt been tested for shingles specifically but experts say it may provide some skin relief while your rash is still acting up. Colloidal oatmeal is made by grinding oats into a fine powder . A study in the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology found that this natural remedy has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties which can make it helpful in treating irritated skin. Add colloidal oatmeal to a bath of cool or lukewarm water and soak for about 10 minutes, once per day, for as long as your rash lasts.
A Word About The Shingles Vaccine
If you are age 60 or over and have not had shingles, talk to your doctor about getting the shingles vaccine. Not only will it reduce your risk of developing shingles, but if you do develop shingles, youll be more likely to have a mild case. And, just as important, youll be much less likely to develop PHN if youve had the vaccine.
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How Is Postherpetic Neuralgia Treated
If shingles is caught within the first three days of its outbreak, your healthcare provider may prescribe the antiviral medication acyclovir , valacyclovir or famciclovir . These medications help the rash/blisters heal faster, keep new sores from forming, decrease pain and itching and reduce length of pain after sores have healed.
If your shingles outbreak is not caught early, your healthcare providers has many options to manage your postherpetic neuralgia symptoms.
If your pain is mild, your healthcare provider may recommend:
- Acetaminophen or NSAIDs such as ibuprofen .
- Creams and patches include lidocaine and capsaicin .
If your pain is more severe, your healthcare may prescribe:
- Antiseizure drugs gabapentin and pregabalin .
- Antidepressants, such as escitalopram , quetiapine or amitriptyline.
- Botulinum toxin injections in the area where you are having pain.
Theres no clear-cut superior treatment for PHN. Your provider may need to try more than one medication or prescribe the use of several medications at the same time. You and your provider will discuss options and what makes sense to try for you. Contact your provider if your pain is not lessening after taking your medicine. Take all your medications exactly as prescribed.
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Best Treatments For Lasting Shingles Pain
Postherpetic Neuralgia Pain: What Works, What Doesnt
Doctors call it postherpetic neuralgia or PHN. Its caused by nerve damage left behind by a case of shingles. Shingles itself comes from reactivation of a chickenpox virus, varicella zoster. The virus travels down nerve fibers to cause a painful skin rash.
When the rash goes away, the pain usually goes with it. But for 12% to 15% of people the pain remains. If your shingles pain lasts eight to 12 weeks after the rash goes away, youre part of an unfortunate minority, says pain researcher Andrew S.C. Rice, MD, of Imperial College, London.
Among people with PHN, some have their pain resolve in the first year to 18 months after the shingles rash goes away, Rice tells WebMD. But if they have pain longer than that, it is not going to go away on its own. In either case, a person must deal with the pain.
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What Are The Symptoms Of Postherpetic Neuralgia
The signs and symptoms of postherpetic neuralgia are generally limited to the area of your skin where the shingles outbreak first occurred. The most common areas are in a band around the trunk of the body, usually on one side. It may also occur on the face.
The pain associated with postherpetic neuralgia is varied. It can range from discomfort to very severe. The pain is often described as burning, stabbing, or gnawing.
Patients with the condition often cant bear the slightest touch, even clothing on the affected skin can be painful. In some cases, the sensation may be in the form of either hypersensitivity or decreased sensation. It is rare, but patients may also experience muscle weakness, tremors, or paralysis if the nerves involved also control muscle movement.
Are There Treatments I Can Put On My Skin
You might find relief with topical treatments. You can talk to your doctor about:
Creams: Some of these contain capsaicin, the ingredient in cayenne pepper that gives it a kick. Examples are Capsin and Zostrix. You can buy this over the counter but make sure your doctor knows if you plan on using these.
Patches: Capsaicin is also in Qutenza, which is applied via a patch for one hour every 3 months. You need to visit the doctorâs office for this.
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Coping With Shingles Pain
If you have shingles, you may be wondering how to cope with the pain:
- Be sure to get plenty of sleep and eat a healthy diet to help boost your immune system.
- Wear comfortable, loose clothing with natural fiber .
- Establish or maintain a regular exercise routine.
- Utilize home remedies to help soothe pain from blisters.
- Engage in activities that help take your mind off of the pain.
- Establish a routine to help manage stress.
- Seek out support when needed from family and friends as well as professional supportive services.
Who Should Not Be Vaccinated With Shingrix
Shingrix is given by injection into the upper arm. Shingrix is generally well tolerated. In general, Shingrix is not recommended for: People who are allergic to any component of Shingrix. People with a weakened immune system. People who have a weakened immune system because of:
HIV/AIDS, or- cancer treatments
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Look For A Lidocaine Patch
Lidocaine is an anesthetic agent that temporarily numbs the area where it’s applied, which can help with PHN pain. With significant postherpetic neuralgia, I find that the topical lidocaine patch is usually the most useful, says Camille Kotton, M.D., clinical director of transplant and immunocompromised host infectious diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. Lidocaine is available as a prescription or OTC, though Dr. Kotton notes it can be difficult to get covered by insurance.
Other Treatment Recommendations For Shingles
If you think you have shingles, see your doctor as soon as possible. This increases the effectiveness of any treatment your doctor will prescribe for you. The treatment doesnt cure shingles. Its meant to help you manage the pain.
Besides acupuncture, you can use other methods to manage your pain. These include:
- antiviral drugs such as Famvir, Zovirax, and Valtrex
- over-the-counter and prescription pain relievers
- calamine lotion, colloidal oatmeal, andwet compresses
Two vaccines are available for adults ages 50 years and older. The Food and Drug Administration approved Shingrix and Zostavax for use. These vaccines reduce the risk of getting shingles. If an older adult still gets shingles after being vaccinated, the symptoms may be less intense.
Shingrix, made from a dead germ, is the preferred vaccine. People with weakened immune systems can get it. Its risky for this group to get the Zostavax vaccine, which contains a live but weakened germ.
Zostavax has not been sold in the United States since November 18, 2020. If you received this vaccine, the
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Shingles And Nerve Paths
Shingles is caused by a reactivation of the virus that causes chickenpox. Only people whove had chickenpox or chickenpox vaccines can develop shingles. Having a chickenpox vaccine can lead to shingles because the vaccine contains the virus that causes chickenpox.
Shingles isnt contagious, but people who have not had chickenpox can develop chickenpox if they come in contact with open blisters of somebody with shingles.
After your body fights off a chickenpox infection, the herpes zoster virus remains dormant in your cranial nerves and spinal ganglia until it becomes reactivated. Spinal ganglia are nerve cells that connect your spinal cord to nerves in your body and limbs.
The virus reactivates when your immune system is no longer able to suppress it. Reactivation most commonly occurs in older adults because the immune system tends to get weaker with age, as well as in people with suppressed immune systems.
Once the virus is active, it usually spreads down sensory nerve fibers that lead from your spinal cord to your skin. These nerves carry sensory information like feelings of pain, itchiness, or pressure from your skin to your spinal cord and brain.
Once the virus gets to the end of these sensory nerves, it reaches your skin and usually leads to a rash. This rash often shows up in one or two nearby areas of skin called dermatomes.
A dermatome is an area of your skin where the sensation is supplied by one spinal nerve.
Have Shingles Get Treatment Take Action
If you have shingles, it’s important to talk to your doctor about your risk for developing PHN. Ask whether preventative treatment with antiviral drugs makes sense. If your doctor says it’s not necessary, ask why.
The full implications of the psychological risk factors for PHN aren’t clear yet, says Dworkin. But he suggests that people with shingles should try to stay active and connected.
“If psychological distress is a risk factor for PHN,” he says, “then we think that people who have shingles might benefit from getting out and not being isolated and homebound.”
You might make an effort to stay connected to family and friends and not to dwell on your symptoms. Also, keep in mind that even if you do develop PHN, there are treatments that can help.
“We have about a half dozen types of drugs that are used as first-line treatments for PHN,” says Dworkin. They include lidocaine patch , pregabalin , gabapentin , capsaicin , carbamazepine , tricyclic antidepressants, and painkillers.
The most important thing is to get prompt medical attention if you think you might have shingles.
“If you have a one-sided rash — especially if you’re over 50 — see your doctor right away,” says Dworkin. “It could be shingles. And we know that prompt treatment can dramatically reduce the likelihood of developing long-term pain.”
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When Chronic Pain Comes From The Nerves These Nerve Pain Medications Can Help When Added To Other Pain Relievers
For chronic muscle and joint pain, effective therapies include rest, ice and heat, anti-inflammatory medications, and time. Usually, the pain calms down and you feel better.
However, muscle and joints may be only part of the picture. For instance, pain can be coming primarily from irritated nerves, along with the injured and inflamed muscle or joint.
Often the discomfort is only arising from nerve pain. Typical signs of this “neuropathic” pain include sharp, stinging pain or pain that radiates from one part of the body to adjacent areas. One of the most common causes is diabetes, although it can also be brought on by injury, infection, and some medications.
“People say things like, ‘My knee hurts and I feel like it’s coming up to the middle of my thigh and down to my shin,” says Dr. Padma Gulur, a pain medicine specialist at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital. “In those cases, the nerve may be involved.”
In neuropathic pain, the nerve that was the mere messenger of pain now becomes the actual source. Narcotic pain relievers don’t often help and even when they do, they should not be used as a long term solution. Fortunately there are other options. Certain drugs that were originally developed to treat depression and seizure disorders also damp down inappropriate or excessive pain signaling in the nerves.
What Is Shingles And Postherpetic Neuralgia
Shingles is caused by the varicella-zoster virus, the virus that also causes chickenpox. In a person who has been exposed to chickenpox — or its vaccine — the virus never really goes away. It can lie dormant in the body’s nerves.
In most cases, it stays that way. But in some — especially people with immune systems weakened by disease or treatment — the virus can reappear. This is likely to happen years or decades after the person had chickenpox.
When it comes back, the virus can cause shingles, a rash that often appears as a band on one side of the body. Early shingles symptoms can include:
- Flu-like symptoms
Are you contagious? Though people who haven’t had chickenpox can catch that condition from you, the shingles itself isn’t contagious.
For reasons that experts don’t really understand, the pain of shingles lingers for some. If the pain lasts for at least 3 months after the shingles rash has healed, a person is diagnosed with PHN. In some people, the pain will subside. In others, it won’t.
“We don’t have any idea why the pain goes away in some people and not others,” says Dworkin. But the longer you have PHN — especially after a year — the less likely it is to resolve, he says.
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Clear Cold Sores Shingles & Utis
Clear Cold Sores, Shingles & UTIs is a homeopathic remedy targeted at relieving 2 types of skin infections: Cold Sores, Shingles but also adds UTI relief to the list also. These are big claims for just one product so we were interested to see how this product worked out there in the real world and hear from customers as to whether it was effective or not.
We liked that this product is specifically targeted at combating Shingles, albeit along with other infections. There are not many products like this on the market which indicates that this manufacturer has done their research in understanding what can help people suffering with Shingles. This is an exclusively homeopathic product, which means the ingredients are not clinically researched however they did add a range of herbs to aid in pain relief such as Gentian root, Scutellaria root to help dry out the blisters faster as well as Ginger root to boost anti-inflammatory benefits. Ideally we prefer products that contain clinically-proven ingredients that have been scientifically proven to help and are backed by clinical data. The biggest failure in this formula is the exclusion of L-lysine, the key amino acid shown to address the symptoms associated with Shingles and speed up recovery. Without this, Clear Cold Sores, Shingles & UTIs will not progress in our ranking.
Treatment For Lingering Shingles Pain
Most cases of shingles clear up within a month or so. After you have shingles, its unlikely that youll get it again. But as we mentioned above, some people develop PHN, a complication that follows shingles. Older people, women, and those who had more severe shingles symptoms seem to be at higher risk of developing PHN, but its not clear why others never develop it.
Nerve blocks are injections containing local anesthetic to numb nerves contributing to PHN pain. Other minimally invasive treatments include nerve ablation and steroid injections to treat inflammation related to shingles.
We offer several nonaddictive prescription medications for nerve pain. Oral antidepressants or membrane stabilizers can reduce symptoms of PHN. For some people, topical medication like capsaicin cream can temporarily relieve pain.
You dont have to turn to addictive opioid pain medications if you have shingles pain. Dr. Soin and our team are here to help you find relief with a personalized treatment plan, whether its nerve-blocking injections or medication.
If you still have nerve pain after shingles, you dont have to suffer in silence. in Centerville or Beavercreek, Ohio, or book an appointment online to learn more about the PHN treatment that could be right for you.
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