Shingles: what can I do to feel better?
May 18, 2024 12:19 PM   Subscribe

I have shingles. It's all over the left side of my face, neck, ear, and I believe my scalp. I'm taking antivirals and gabapentin. The rash itself doesn't feel too bad, but my neck is killing me. It's just like if I threw it out. Feels muscular, like my head is too heavy for my neck. I'm spending all my time trying ways to support it to let it relax, but nothing helps. Also, so, so tired and lousy feeling.

Does anyone have any suggestions how to help myself feel better? I'm afraid to put anything on the rash but it is a little stingy. They can be medical suggestions or home remedies. Thanks!
posted by primate moon to Health & Fitness (17 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I just got over shingles on my lower back and just echoing that it made my back "go out". Unfortunately no suggestions beyond hot showers/baths and sucks!
posted by stray at 12:37 PM on May 18 [1 favorite]

… but my neck is killing me. It's just like if I threw it out. Feels muscular, like my head is too heavy for my neck. I'm spending all my time trying ways to support it to let it relax, but nothing

I think the neck problem is a direct result of the shingles as much as the rash is.

When I had shingles they started just next to my spine on my right side along the belt line, and then wrapped around my right abdomen all the way to the midline in front.

The skin pain was nothing compared to the internal pain and weird, shivery discomfort, and I thought I could tell from pressing that there were lesions on my large bowel as well as my skin.

So I suspect your neck pain is a similar deeper tissue manifestation.

My internal pain went away a lot faster than the external pain and discomfort and I’d guess yours might too, fwiw.
posted by jamjam at 12:46 PM on May 18

The worst! So sorry -- this was me last month. I found acupuncture really helpful for the neck pain; worth a shot! One word of caution, though. If you start feeling pain in your face, and/or vertigo around your ear, you may also have the side syndrome I had (though I am not your doctor): Ramsay Hunt Syndrome. This happens when the shingles-inflamed nerves in your neck and face rub against bone or otherwise get inflamed, and can cause facial paralysis (including a piratical version that causes winking when smiling). Very treatable with prednisone, as it was for me, but worth checking on!
posted by SandCounty at 12:52 PM on May 18 [1 favorite]

When I had shingles, the Gabapentin made me feel really fuzzy headed (and did nothing for the pain). The only thing that really helped with the nerve pain was over-the-counter Lidocaine cream, which I just liberally applied to the affected areas whenever they started to "hurt". I think the stuff I used was Aspercreme, but brand probably doesn't matter in this case.
posted by strangecargo at 1:01 PM on May 18 [1 favorite]

No personal experience, but I heard that Listerine applied externally can provide some relief (though maybe not for muscle pain).
posted by mpark at 1:02 PM on May 18

Oatmeal baths were so soothing when I had Shingles.
posted by brookeb at 1:21 PM on May 18 [1 favorite]

I wonder if a shiatsu massage pillow would help. I know they help with migraines.

You might want to make sure that any you order will allow use _without_ heat if desired.
posted by amtho at 1:32 PM on May 18

So sorry you are dealing with this! Someone I know just also got shingles! She has found using a cold pack applied to the rash area periodically helped (YMMV).
posted by gudrun at 1:54 PM on May 18

I had shingles a couple years ago and found nothing really helpful other than just patiently waiting it out. Another friend also tried all the recommended treatments for pain and the one thing that worked was pot.
posted by nanook at 2:00 PM on May 18

I am just over a bout myself, down the back of my thigh and all the way to the top of my foot. I was taking antivirals and prescription-strength naproxen; the naproxen really helped with the deep stabbing aching pain. I went through tubes of that lidocaine cream and also used cold/ice packs in constant rotation. Heat and baths made it worse. Sleeping was really difficult so I just tried for as much non-sleep rest as possible. I'm now a month from when it started and the rash is fading, still some residual twinges but infinitely better. Don't force yourself through your regular activities; if you have the option of hunkering down and waiting it out, do it. I'm so sorry you're going through this. It's a terrible and apparently terribly common malady.
posted by fiery.hogue at 2:17 PM on May 18 [1 favorite]

The only thing that worked for me, for the surface pain, was capsaicin. It's available as a 1% cream at walgreens. It's too strong so thin with lubriderm. I didn't have the internal pain so I don't know what would work for that.
posted by H21 at 2:30 PM on May 18

Hey I posted this question a few months ago. It says covid because I had covid and I assumed covid was causing it. But I ALSO had shingles at the same time (yes, it was as awful as it sounds. So now that I read this question maybe it was the shingles causing the neck pain?

Anyway prescription muscle relaxants helped a lot. I felt silly going to the ER but I'm glad I did because the pain was really unbearable. See a doctor and get some help for the actual pain.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 5:52 PM on May 18

There are lidocaine patches that your doctor can prescribe. I haven't had shingles but I know someone who found the patches very helpful. You peel the backing off and can apply them for up to 12 hours per 24 hours - enough to be able to sleep, anyway. They were about 3" by 5" but can be cut..
posted by citygirl at 5:54 PM on May 18

Lidocaine gel and patches are available without a prescription in the US. Do read the warnings but they're safe for almost everyone if used correctly. Oh, but don't put it directly on the rash.
posted by neuron at 7:00 PM on May 18 [1 favorite]

When my father-in-law had shingles, the only thing that seemed to help was acupuncture. In fact, it helped so much that he stopped going for the treatment on the theory that it was going away on its own and then, when it came back after he stopped the acupuncture, he believed that meant that the acupuncture didn't 'work'.

Moral: give acupuncture a try and don't be like my FIL.
posted by janey47 at 7:05 PM on May 18

I had this issue with weakness when I had shingles, like my muscles in my abdomen just could not hold my body up at all (and at one point gave me a false frigging hernia, which was scary, but luckily resolved itself). I just could not sit up for like two weeks and thought it was just part of shingles. Turns out, it wasn't really; it was indicative of nerve damage from the shingles - which I am still living with the pain from nearly a year later (post-herpetic neuralgia) and use a cane as a result of. I went back to my doctor after two weeks of it and they told me I should have gone sooner. At that appointment they prescribed me pregabalin for it and it helped significantly after a couple of days. I strongly recommend going to your doctor again just in case it's the same thing.

I also had acupuncture somewhat later and it sort of helped, ish.

For the rashes, vaseline worked wonders for me, just putting it on liberally whenever I felt any tightness in the rash. I have zero scarring.
posted by urbanlenny at 1:54 PM on May 20

I also won't abuse the edit window but I notice from your bio that you're 64. Put a reminder in your calendar for a year from now to go get a shingles vaccine; you have to wait a year from your shingles infection but you can totally get shingles again so should get the vaccine. I have very much become a shingles vaccine evangelist since my bout with it. Shingles are no joke.
posted by urbanlenny at 1:58 PM on May 20 [1 favorite]

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