A complication of shingles is the painful after-effects known as postherpetic neuralgia. This condition occurs only in some people and after the rash of shingles has disappeared.
Postherpetic neuralgia, the most common complication of shingles, is difficult to treat. Your doctor may recommend other treatments, along with medicines, to control the pain of postherpetic neuralgia.
Understanding Shingles -- the Basics
Shingles (herpes zoster) results from a reactivation of the virus that also causes chickenpox. With shingles, the first thing you may notice is a tingling sensation or pain on one side of your body or face. Painful skin blisters then erupt on only one side of your face or body along the distribution of nerves on the skin. Typically, this occurs along your chest, abdomen, back, or face, but it may also affect your neck, limbs, or lower back. The area can be very painful, itchy, and tender.
Other treatments for postherpetic neuralgia include:
- Acupuncture, a Chinese therapy that has been used for centuries to reduce pain.
- Biofeedback, a method of consciously controlling a body function that is normally regulated automatically by the body.
- Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), a therapy that uses mild electrical current to treat pain.
- Diathermy, a therapy that uses heat to increase blood flow for pain relief.
Psychological therapies that help you tolerate long-term pain may be helpful. These therapies can include counseling and/or relaxation techniques that teach you to shift your focus of attention away from the pain. You may want to consider going to a pain management specialist if you have not found relief from pain that interferes with your daily living.
What To Think About
It is difficult to assess the effectiveness of these treatments. Although the pain may last many months or years, postherpetic neuralgia is usually a self-limiting condition and with time may heal on its own.