Complications from the shingles can take the form of post-herpetic neuralgia (PHN). This pain can occur months to years after contracting the shingles virus. In the U.S., approximately 1 million cases of herpes zoster virus occur annually.
Shingles is a viral infection that typically causes a painful rash with blisters that can break open, after which a scab grows over; typically in 7-10 days. The same virus can spread to those who haven't had the chickenpox (varicella-zoster virus), or those in who the virus is latent or dormant.
For a majority, pain from shingles fades within weeks to a month after the infection. PHN is a secondary condition resulting from the shingles virus (herpes zoster virus). Not everyone who contracts shingles will experience PHN, a painful condition affecting the nerve fibers and skin that remains after the disease has subsided.
PHN pain typically occurs several weeks to a month post-shingles contraction, and the severity can worsen depending on the age of the individual.
Who is at risk for post herpetic neuralgia?
Those with weakened immune systems are most susceptible to infections like shingles and its secondary condition post-herpetic neuralgia.
Symptoms of shingles
- Rash and blisters that break open and scab over
- Pain - burning, throbbing or stabbing types of pain
- Tingling, itching, prickling skin
- General malaise
Symptoms of post herpetic neuralgia
- Sensitivity to touch / pressure - some may experience pain even from wearing clothing or doing every day activities requiring their skin/body to come into contact with surfaces and which involve movement or pressure (sitting, standing, walking, using a computer).
- Temperature change sensitivity - some react to temperature fluctuation, including encountering the wind or breeze, or even mild heat from the sun
- Numbness, itching, and tingling - some may experience itching, numbness or tingling, which are not as common as pain or touch sensitivity.
- Headaches - if you have shingles affecting your face or head, you may experience head pain or headaches.
- Weakness and/or paralysis - if the shingles virus affects nerves that control muscles, you may experience these symptoms.
- In addition to these symptoms, some with post herpetic neuralgia may also experience rash, fever, and general tiredness.
Treatment / prevention for post herpetic neuralgia
The following are some conventional treatments for post-herpetic neuralgia, including side effects for each treatment:
- Anti-convulsants (side effects)
- Anti-depressants (side effects)
- Prescription pain medication (side effects)
- Topical creams
- Patches (side effects)
- TENS - electronic device (side effects)
- Shingles vaccine (side effects) (vaccine insert side effects from MERCK)
Health conditions all have a root cause. Unfortunately, conventional medicine typically isolates conditions in the body and treat symptoms without considering underlying reasons for disease. Conditions such as shingles and PHN, a condition that is a secondary to shingles, are indicative of a mal-nourished state and weakened immune system. When we support the immune system to enable healing, results can be more effective in supporting the body's ability to recover and remain well over longer periods of time, lessening incidence and recurrence of chronic disease.
Natural remedies for pain and other symptoms such as numbness and weakness experienced from post-herpetic neurlogia:
Hot bath with epsom salt and baking soda (with some of the essential oil combinations listed below) OR oat bath in warm (not too hot) or cool water, to avoid further skin irritation / inflammation.
Essential oils - bergamot with tea tree oil, lemon balm, marjoram, geranium, lavender and German chamomile in a base of St. John's Wort, Frankincense essential oils topically (with a carrier oil such as olive, coconut, almond, or palm oil).
Aloe vera - applied topically, several times daily.
Cold compresses - ice in a towel or gel-filled frozen packs applied periodically can provide relief.
Olive leaf - supportive of immune boosting and function.
Witch hazel - applied topically. Witch hazel is safe for topical application, soothing and can be applied several times daily.
Dietary and supplement support to assist the body in healing organ systems and recovery for long-term wellness:
- Eliminate processed and packaged food - commercial food contains additives, preservatives introduce dangerous toxins and other chemicals into the body, weaken immunity and compromise digestion. These products undergo processing when consumed, contribute to disease and illness. They are also devoid in real nutrients needed by the body for optimal health.
- Include nutrient-dense, organic foods such as grassfed and grass finished meats, pasture-raised poultry and eggs, raw dairy foods including yogurt, kefir, sour cream and cream cheese. These foods contain vitamins, minerals and other elements including the correct balance of Omega 6 and Omega 3 essential fatty acids, CLA (conjugated linoleic acid), folate and others necessary for health and wellness.
- Fermented foods and beverages with probiotic content - sauerkraut, pickles and other vegetables, kombucha, water kefir, beet kvass and cultured vegetable juices. These easy-to-digest, nutrient-dense foods contain critical elements for health, healing and wellness. They are especially important for digestion and immunity support.
- Bone broths, homemade, from pastured animals and birds. These easy-to-make and digest foods support immunity, digestion and help the body recover from disease and illness by healing and are an important source of proteins, critical minerals and amino acids.
- Soups and stews made with homemade bone broth or meat stock. These foods contain broth (see above), animal foods and vegetables, all of which provide essential nutrient support for health, wellness and digestive and immunity function.
- Vitamin C - Liposomal and IV administration. Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant and powerful healing nutrient, critical for immune and overall health.
- Vitamin D - Taking Vitamin D in isolation, as with many nutrients, is not recommended. A chelated or elemental form of Vitamin D with co-factors Vitamin A, Vitamin K2, and minerals magnesium and calcium is optimal, and also obtaining these nutrients from real food.
Good sources include foods listed above (grassfed meats, pasture-raised poultry and eggs, raw dairy foods from animals on pasture, fermented foods and beverages, and also obtaining regular, safe sun exposure (avoid burning) to provide the body with an adequate store of natural Vitamin D stores for immunity as well as other aspects of health. Recommended: Dr. Ron's Natural Vitamin D3, Green Pasture Products Fermented Cod Liver Oil.