Understanding nerve pain is a challenging task.
There are many things that can set it off and, sometimes, it becomes quite difficult to pin point the origin.
We already know that diabetes causes nerve pain, but what else adds to the equation?
Before understanding how shingles causes nerve pain, you need to know how this viral infection occurs.
What Is Shingles?
Shingles is a painful rash, which is a result of a viral infection. It usually occurs when the varicella zoster virus (VZV) is reactivated in the nerves.
It causes pain, a tingling sensation or burning sensation, which usually leads to nerve pain. VZV is the same virus that, which causes chickenpox.
In most people, the virus remains dormant and strikes again later becomes active due to an unknown trigger.
Shingles develop only when you have previously had chickenpox. In some cases, when a person’s immune system is weak due to the treatment or diseases, VZV can strike again.
The three symptoms that people experience on the early onset of shingles are:
- Light sensitivity
- Flu-like signs
Postherpetic Neuralgia (PHN)
Sometimes, the rash caused by shingles persists even when the virus is gone. This usually happens in older people. According to a study published in the Neurology Journal by American Academy of Neurology, certain people are vulnerable to PHN, and there are particular situations that bring about the pain.
Data from 965 shingles patients was collected, and it was revealed that there are five5 risk factors associated with developing PHN:
- Old age
- FemaleGender (females are more susceptible than males)
- Severe rash
- Severe pain during initial stages of shingles
- Presence of certain symptoms before the appearance of the rash such as pain, itching, numbness, and tingling
PHN pain usually lasts for three months, and can beit can range from mild to severe. On the latter end, the pain can lead to depression, disability, weight loss, and insomnia. The normal symptoms such as loss of feeling, coldness, and tingling last for a long time.
A study published in the Journal of Pain explored the psychological risks factors of PHN. It was revealed that people are more vulnerable to PHN if they have a history of personality disorders, hypochondria, and other similar bodily complaints.
Now that you know what postherpetic neuralgia is, let’s have a look at its treatment options other than medication and opioids.:
6 Remedies for Postherpetic Neuralgia Caused By Shingles
Natural remedies are a great way to treat shingles. Seeking medical advice must be your first step, but sometimes medications prescribed by the doctor tend to have side effects. On the other hand, natural remedies do not pose a high level of danger, which is what makes them appealing. Let’s have a look at a few home remedies that can help you treat PHN:
1. Essential Oils
The best thing about essential oils is that they do not require FDA approval. Since they are made from natural ingredients, you don’t need to worry about side effects.
They can help with skin healing and irritation; two symptoms that patients of PHN are plagued with. Following are a few oils that you can use:
Chamomile Oil: This oil has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. It improves pressure sores and ulcers through its skin-cell regeneration.
Eucalyptus Oil: This oil has anti-inflammatory properties. It increases the healing process, which helps reduces pain from sores.
Tea Tree Oil: This oil has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties that promote wound healing. It gives the skin a soothing feel and also helps remove scar.
Essential oils are quite potent on their own and may cause allergic reactions.
To be on the safe side, you should always start with a patch test on the inside of your arm. The dilute the essential oil, use career oils like coconut oil, olive oil, almond oil or jojoba oil.
2. Witch Hazel
Witch Hazel also has anti-inflammatory properties, more potent than chamomile oil.
It prevents widespread inflammation by neutralizing free-radicals and suppresses erythema (a condition in which the skin reddens due to irritation).
Witch Hazel has become quite popular in the skin care industry, so much so that there are various versions of it available in the market other than in oil form such as cream, moisturizing lotion and water.
3. Oat Baths
Colloidal oatmeal is used to moisten dry skin. This oatmeal type is suspended in liquid, which allows it to be easily absorbed by the skin. This treatment for PHN has been approved by the FDA.
Since colloidal oatmeal does not contain oat protein, it prevents allergic reactions and soothes inflamed skin better. The active ingredients in colloidal oatmeal contain saponins and flavanoid.
Where saponins help reduce neuropathic pain, the analgesic effects of flavanoid eliminate pain. These benefits are the reason why colloidal oatmeal help relieve itchiness and pain.
Simply add a cup of oatmeal into a bathtub filled with lukewarm water, let it sit for 5 minutes and then soak in it for 15 minutes. Don’t stay in for too long or the itching will become worse.
4. Gentiana Scabra
A Chinese herb going by the name Gentiana Scabra is gaining attention in the traditional medicine world. The herbal formulation comes from Japanese Gentian plant.
In Chinese medicine, it is called longdan. For centuries, it has been used by traditional healers due to its ability to provide relief from pain.
According to a study conducted by RMIT University in Melbourne and China-Australia International Research Center for Chinese Medicine, Gentiana Scabra has the ability to treat Herpes zoster and its resulting nerve pain.
The anti-inflammatory properties promote healing by minimizing pain. You can get oral supplements from Chinese medicine practitioners or simply by topical creams.
5. Quit Smoking
Not exactly a remedy but more of an advice: a great way to get rid of PHN pain is to quit smoking. Earlier, we mentioned that people whose immune system is weak are more vulnerable to PHN.
Smoking not only compromises the immune system but also exposes it to infections. Having PHN and smoking is a combination that is bound to make your pain verse.
When talking about, in order to treat PHN, you need to include more green, red and orange foods in your meals.
These contain carotenoids such as Lycopene, zeaxanthin and lutein. Carotenoids offer benefits for the immune system, which prevents shingles from getting worse.
Another nutrient that you should include in your diet is Vitamin A, which promotes immune system health. Lastly, deficiency of B Vitamins can cause nerve pain, which makes this class of Vitamins a must for your diet.
Following are some foods that you should include in your diet:
- Orange Foods: Apricot, pumpkin and carrot
- Red Foods: Cherry, grapefruit, red pepper and watermelon
- Green Foods: Endive, lettuce, spinach, melon, parsley, kale
- Vitamin A: Fish oil, milk, eggs
- B Vitamins: Legumes, leafy vegetables, whole grains
Try avoiding as much sugar as possible because it helps reduce inflammation.
When it comes to PHN, the more active you are in stopping the spread of shingles, the easier it will be for you to deal with the pain. It might take some time to strengthen your immune system but if you follow these remedies to the point, you will find relief from pain immediately.
Take the natural route first and start small with essential oils. It might feel like they are temporary pain relievers but with repeated use and the right diet, you will be able to get rid of post-herpetic neuralgia for good.
Also consider taking nutritional supplements that contain b-vitamins and alpha lipoic acid. There are many products available that contain these two essential ingredients, however you should do your own research before choosing one.