Caused by a chickenpox virus called varicella zoster, shingles is a condition characterized by a painful skin rash, which is the result of damage to the nerve fibers. While the rash and pain that accompanies it will go away on its own after the virus has run its course, in certain cases, the pain remains and causes a condition called postherpetic neuralgia (PHN).
Shingles pain – Treatment
In any case, the pain caused by shingles remains unbearable for many individuals who resort to searching for an effective and reliable shingles pain treatment. The best treatment options for shingles are as follows:
Studies have revealed that taking pain medications can reduce the pain caused by shingles and its symptoms. Some of the painkillers commonly prescribed for the condition include ibuprofen, acetaminophen, naproxen, tricyclic antidepressants, etc. You can also use a topical cream like calamine lotion to reduce the itching caused by shingles. However, it is always considered wise to visit a doctor before taking these medications so as to avoid unnecessary side effects.
One of the most common shingles pain treatments is to administer antiviral medication to the affected individual. A doctor may prescribe medications like Valtrex, Zovirax, and Famvir for individuals with shingles so as to bring down the intensity of the pain and rash caused by the condition. The viral medications need to be administered within 72 hours of the rash development in order to have the maximum benefit. In some cases, the antiviral medication may need to be administered intravenously; this usually happens when the affected individual has a suppressed immune system.
In certain cases of PHN, the pain that accompanies a shingles infection refuses to leave the body even after the infection has reduced. It is caused by permanent damage to the nerves resulting from the infection. In the case of PHN, a doctor may recommend additional medications as part of the shingles pain treatment plan. These additional medications come in the form of opioids like morphine or oxycodone to control the pain caused by shingles. Some doctors may also prescribe medications like pregabalin and gabapentin for the condition. These medications are not prescribed for body pain, but for nerve related problems.
Natural treatment options for shingles
In addition to these medications, there are some natural shingles pain treatment options. Let’s take a look at a few of them.
- Cool bath – This has proven to be a very effective natural treatment for shingles pain management. Taking a bath in cool water can help soothe the skin and ease the pain caused by the blisters from a shingles infection. The cool water can also reduce the itchiness caused by the rash, which is a common symptom of shingles. All you need to do is add 2 to 3 cups of colloidal oatmeal to lukewarm water in a bathtub. It is advised to soak in this water for about 20 minutes every day to get relief from shingles and its side effects.
- Cool compress – This is another standard home treatment for shingles. Applying a cool compress on the affected areas can help reduce the pain and discomfort caused by shingles. The process can be repeated many times a day depending on the severity of the symptoms. However, if the pain worsens on applying a cold compress, stop this treatment immediately.
- Creams and lotions – Applying a soothing skin cream or lotion on the shingles rashes can help reduce the itchiness and pain. Scratching a rash caused by shingles can cause the former to break into blisters or cause permanent scarring. Although these lotions and creams do not quicken the healing process, they do provide a lot of relief from the side effects of shingles while the person is getting treated for the infection. It is advised to use a topical cream that contains capsaicin, a natural ingredient found in chili peppers. Although there may be a slight burning sensation upon applying the ointment, the anti-inflammatory properties of capsaicin ensure that the pain and itchiness dissipate quickly.
- Dietary changes – A weakened or suppressed immune system can often worsen a shingles infection. In this case, it is wise to opt for some dietary changes to strengthen the immune system and help the body fight the infection faster. A person with shingles infection would need to eat foods that contain vitamins A, B, C, and E, as well as lysine (an amino acid). Foods that contain these nutrients include leafy vegetables, citrus fruit, red meat, chicken, eggs, fish, whole grains, and dairy products.
Shingles can be handled easily with the help of prescribed medications and home treatments, the combination of which can help the body get rid of the infection and its symptoms faster.