Natural Remedies to Relieve Shingles Pain, Outbreaks
Shingles pain can be excruciating. Thankfully, most people who experience a shingles outbreak only do so one time. However, others have recurrences. There is no cure for shingles, but there are antiviral medications that can speed the healing process. Shingles vaccination also is available to adults aged 50 and older to help prevent initial outbreaks among those at the highest risk for them.
Modern medicine is not the only solution for treating shingles pain and preventing future outbreaks. Naturopaths and doctors agree that natural treatments for shingles can help with both discomfort and relapses. If you’re among the people who prefer natural alternatives for treating common conditions, this article provides information on the most effective natural treatments for shingles.
What Causes Shingles?
Shingles is a viral infection caused by the varicella zoster virus (VZV). It is the same virus that causes chickenpox. Individuals who recover from chickenpox can have the virus lay dormant in their systems for years. Doctors don’t know why, but roughly 1 out of every 3 people who had chickenpox later have the virus reactivate as shingles.
How Common is Shingles?
Many people don’t think about shingles until it affects them personally. The truth is shingles is far more common than you may realize. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that 1 million people suffer from this debilitating and painful condition each year. Anyone who has ever had chickenpox – even a mild case of it 40 years ago – can have the VZV reactivate as shingles. Most Americans born before 1980 have had chickenpox and therefore are at high risk of developing shingles. More than half of all shingles cases happen in people over 60. The risk for serious complications from shingles also increases with age.
The first sign of a shingles outbreak usually is a burning pain or itching around one side of the waist. Some individuals experience burning or itching on the side of their face near their eye or forehead. After a few days of these warning signs, a rash of fluid-filled blisters appears in the affected area. It can take a few weeks for the blisters to resolve.
For 1 out of 10 people, nerve pain – postherpetic neuralgia – can last for months or even years after the initial outbreak. It is one of the most common shingles complications. Age increases the risk of developing postherpetic neuralgia.
Can You Get Shingles More Than Once?
Unfortunately, yes. Shingles can recur in some people, although doctors are not entirely certain what makes one person more susceptible to a repeat outbreak than another. Medical professionals originally thought that reoccurrences were rare, but now know that they happen in more than 5 percent of shingles sufferers. Your risk for developing a second round of this painful virus increases with age.
Doctor Recommendations for Shingles
Most doctors recommend the shingles vaccine to prevent an initial outbreak. Medical trials suggest the shingles vaccine is about 85 percent effective for the first four years after vaccination. The CDC has determined that individuals who receive both doses of the vaccine, at the recommended 2 to 6 months between injections, have the most protection. Even if a breakthrough shingles infection occurs, vaccinated adults have less severe symptoms, according to the CDC.
Medical practitioners treat active shingles outbreaks with antiviral medications specifically designed to fight the varicella zoster virus. Prescription medications focus on addressing shingles pain and the itching associated with the condition. There is no cure for shingles, only treatment to relieve the symptoms.
Some doctors also recommend using over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen or acetaminophen. Sometimes physicians prescribe narcotics or steroids to treat the pain and antihistamines for the itching. All medications work best when started within two days of the rash first appearing.
Natural Treatments for Shingles
Natural treatments for shingles can be just as effective as over-the-counter and prescription medications when used correctly. Not only can these alternative treatments provide natural pain relief for shingles, but they also can boost your immune system to help protect against future outbreaks. Here are some effective natural treatments for shingles that produce immediate results.
- Apply calamine lotion, calendula cream, and Aveeno baths to soothe the itch and discomfort of the blisters that erupt as part of the shingles skin rash.
- Avoid scratching the blisters because if they break, they can become infected. Then, antibiotics may be necessary, and you can end up with scarring on your skin.
- Try an herbal roll-on shingles pain relief to combat the severity of the discomfort and itching. Those with postherpetic neuralgia from shingles may find all-nature Premiere’s Pain Spray Mist or Roll-On a comforting solution for temporary pain relief. Lidocaine skin patches also can help with shingles pain but can be applied only four times a day.
- Rent a TENS unit or buy one if you can’t find any rentals available in your area. TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) can block pain signals from reaching your brain by delivering a mild, pain-free electrical current through your skin. They have been shown to offer effective treatment for nerve pain associated with shingles.
- Soak in a cool bath to ease shingles pain. Soaking in a tub full of cool water for several minutes can help relieve the itching and intense discomfort. Avoid using cold water because it can cause more pain. Be careful to dry off completely afterward to prevent further drying of your skin. Any towels that contact oozing blisters must be immediately washed to avoid transmitting the virus to others. If you don’t want to soak in the tub, you alternatively can apply cool compresses or ice packs to affected areas for up to 20 minutes.
- Spray apple vinegar solution on affected areas for natural pain relief for shingles and to help control the itching. Never apply undiluted apple cider vinegar to the area. Be sure to mix one to two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar per cup of water. Alternatively, you can add one-half to one cup of apple cider vinegar directly to bathwater.
- Use a natural antidepressant like St. John’s Wort. Studies suggest that enhancing serotonin levels in the brain can reduce your pain perception. This may be especially useful for those suffering from postherpetic neuralgia or shingles pain that lasts for weeks or months.
Shingles is a serious medical condition. Contact your healthcare provider if you suspect you have it before using any natural treatments for shingles.
Natural Remedies to Prevent a Shingles Outbreak
If you were born before 1980, your chances of experiencing a shingles outbreak are unfortunately high. Getting vaccinated can help with an initial resurgence of the virus, but it may not prevent a second – or third – outbreak in the future. Effective natural treatments for shingles can reduce your risk of being revisited by this painful skin condition.
- Keep your immune system strong
Taking a high-quality probiotic can boost your immune response and keep the varicella zoster virus suppressed. Choosing a liquid gel capsule version like Bio-K+ is your best option. Also consider adding foods to your diet that are natural sources of probiotics, including kefir, kombucha, and sauerkraut.
- Get regular physical exercise
Having a robust white blood cell count can help ward off any resurgence of the varicella zoster virus within your system. White blood cells are part of the lymphatic system. They move through your body in search of foreign invaders like viruses, launching an immune attack when they discover any. Research suggests exercise helps build your white blood cell count.
- Take a Vitamin C Supplement
Vitamin C can’t directly stop a shingles outbreak. However it can reduce the likelihood you will develop postherpetic neuralgia. Research has shown that people deficient in Vitamin C at the time of a shingles outbreak are more likely to develop intense nerve pain.
- Try a natural tranquilizer
Psychological stress is a contributing factor in shingles recurrence because it can weaken the immune system. It can be nearly impossible to eliminate every source of stress in your life. Using a natural tranquilizer like the RELAX Pocket Inhaler can calm frazzled nerves and soothe away your worries. RELAX uses the power of aromatherapy to promote natural stress relief.
A Final Word on Natural Pain Relief for Shingles
Shingles pain can be debilitating, but there are things you can do to prevent outbreaks. Get your shingles booster and keep your immune system strong. If you do become the unfortunate host of this unwelcome visitor, natural treatment for shingles can help keep your shingles pain in check until the rash subsides.
Stay well, friends!