Are Nerve Blocks Effective for Treating Shingles Pain?
Most people experience chickenpox as children. When this infection dissipates, the virus causing it remains inactive in your body. With time, the virus can reactivate, causing shingles. If pain persists months after the shingles blisters have dried, you may be experiencing shingles pain, also called postherpetic neuralgia (PHN). Some people turn to nerve blocks for shingles pain.
Anyone who’s had chickenpox can develop shingles, but PHN is not common.
The virus can “wake up” if your immune system weakens. This can happen as you age.
Facts About Shingles Pain
After shingles go away, the blisters can remain for several weeks. In most cases, the pain lasts for about a month.
PHN is caused by residual stimulation. If pain persists two months after the rash is gone, you may have shingles pain.
Options include nerve blocks – injecting a local anesthetic –, and thoracic epidural injections – an anti-inflammatory medicine.
Treating Shingles Pain With Nerve Blocks
Depending on your case, one of our pain specialists may recommend using nerve blocks for shingles pain. This is a non-invasive procedure consisting of injecting a local anesthetic to reduce acute pain around a nerve or group of nerves, shortening the duration of PHN. Most patients find this procedure very effective.GET PAIN TREATMENT
Important Facts About Nerve Blocks
Also used to diagnose what is causing pain, by analyzing your reaction to nerve blocks.
Non-surgical nerve blocks take only a few minutes. You don’t require any preparation.
Nerve blocks provide temporary relief from shingles pain, headaches, and other pain conditions.
FAQ About Nerve Blocks
What types of nerve blocks can alleviate shingles pain?
- Intercostal nerve blocks: Intercostal nerves are located below the ribs, going from the back (in the spinal cord) to the chest (in the sternum). In our pain clinic, we often treat pain conditions affecting this area, like shingles pain, with intercostal nerve blocks. These nerve blocks help alleviate the pain, stimulate circulation, and reduce inflammation in the area.
- Sympathetic nerve blocks: There are different types of sympathetic blockades that can be applied depending on the affected area: lumbar sympathetic block (legs and feet), stellate ganglion block, and sphenopalatine block (head and neck).
- Trigeminal nerve blocks: The trigeminal nerve is located in the face. Although not common, in some cases shingles affect the face. When this happens, we can use trigeminal nerve blocks to help alleviate PHN in the area.
How can nerve blocks alleviate shingles pain?
Non-surgical nerve blocks act by stopping the nerves from sending pain signals to the brain. They don’t treat the underlying causes of shingles (the varicella-zoster virus) but they do help ease the pain and even prevent PHN before it occurs by numbing the affected area.
Can I use nerve blocks to prevent shingles pain?
The early use of nerve blocks may be used to prevent PHN and avoid nerve damage in the affected areas. To prevent shingles pain, a specialist must perform several nerve blocks during the shingles phase. This, however, should be discussed with your pain doctor.
Are nerve blocks effective for treating shingles pain?
Nerve block therapy is one of the safest and most effective strategies to treat shingles pain. The effects vary from patient to patient and depend on the type of nerve block.
Nevertheless, remember your doctor must analyze your case before deciding which is the best treatment for you. At our pain center, one of our specialists will create a comprehensive pain management plan for you depending on your personal needs.
What will I experience during the procedure?
You will feel a “pinch” and a little discomfort when the needle enters your skin. Usually, the fear of the procedure is worse than the procedure itself.
What to expect after the procedure?
It takes about 30 minutes to recover from this procedure, then you will be able to return to your activities.
You may experience soreness after the injection.
Which are the risks of nerve blocks?
Nerve blocks are very safe but they do involve some risks, including infection in the injected area, bleeding, bruising, tenderness, nerve damage, and blocking the wrong nerve.
If you think you could be pregnant, you should inform your doctor.