Shingles nerve pain, also known as postherpetic neuralgia (PHN), is the most common complication associated with shingles. Doctors can prescribe several different medications to help a person manage the pain.
Shingles occurs due to the varicella-zoster virus, which is the same virus that causes chickenpox. It typically affects sensory nerves and the skin surface that the nerves supply. This often results in symptoms such as painful, tingling skin and a rash that usually clears within
Doctors have several options to help a person with PHN reduce their pain. As such, if one option is ineffective, a person can consult their doctor and discuss different options.
In this article, we will review the different medication options for shingles nerve pain, such as narcotic analgesics, antidepressants, anticonvulsants, and more.
The American Academy of Neurology (AAN), the Special Interest Group on Neuropathic Pain (NeuPSIG), and the European Federation of Neurological Societies (EFNS) are
Opioids are a type of narcotic pain reliever that work by binding to opioid receptors that are present in the central nervous system (CNS). This action blocks pain messages the body sends through the spinal cord to the brain.
While opioids can help manage PHN pain, they can also cause several side effects beyond possible addiction or misuse. These include:
- slowed breathing
A certain class of antidepressants, known as tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs), may help with shingles nerve pain. The AAN, NeuPSIG, and EFNS
These types of antidepressants
Other types of antidepressants, such as serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs),
While potentially effective in blocking shingles nerve pain, TCAs can cause several side effects in people who use them. Some common side effects
- weight gain
- dry mouth
- increased appetite
Possible complications mean that doctors may use caution when prescribing them to people in populations more prone to adverse effects.
Anticonvulsants are some of the
The medications come in different formulas and doses based on a person’s needs. They both have similar reported side effects, with dizziness and a strong desire to fall asleep as the
Several other treatments may be helpful for shingles nerve pain.
The AAN, NeuPSIG, and EFNS
Other options may include:
- Capsaicin as a patch or cream: However, this treatment may cause irritation at the application site.
- Botox injections: More studies are necessary to confirm the effectiveness of Botox injections for shingles nerve pain.
- Epidural steroid injections and neuromodulation: Although additional research is necessary, some evidence suggests it can work well for some people.
- Acupuncture: This form of traditional medicine may help relieve painful symptoms of shingles.
- Home remedies: Applying cool compresses, wearing loose-fitting clothing, applying calamine lotion, and taking oatmeal baths may also help with pain and a shingles rash.
- Over-the-counter pain medications: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or acetaminophen may help with pain relief.
- Pulsed electromagnetic field therapy or transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation:
Techniquesthat use small electric currents or magnetic energy may help block pain and promote healing.
A person should talk with a doctor if they develop pain following a shingles rash. A doctor can help assess and provide treatment for the pain.
Since there are several options available, a doctor may be able to offer additional recommendations if a person:
- experiences unwanted side effects
- has increased pain
- does not have success with their current treatment
Despite the several medications and other treatment options, PHN is difficult to treat due to the potential for pain to last for years and how it can recur during a person’s life. Experts
Several treatment options can help manage shingles nerve pain. However, while they are effective, many of the medications, such as opioids and antidepressants, may cause unwanted side effects.
Shingles nerve pain is often difficult to treat due to its likelihood of lasting for a long period. A person has several options, but they may not all work effectively or without side effects.
People most at risk for developing shingles should consider vaccination to help prevent the condition. This may provide them with the best outcome.