New Treatments for Postherpetic Neuralgia
What is postherpetic neuralgia?
Postherpetic neuralgia (PHN) is a painful condition that can develop as a medical complication of shingles (herpes zoster virus). It presents as a burning pain in the nerves and skin after the rash and blisters from the shingles virus have healed.
New treatments for postherpetic neuralgia
The most common medical treatments for PHN include lidocaine or capsaicin skin patches, anticonvulsants, antidepressants, opioids, and steroid injections. Recent studies have shown positive results in new treatment options, which include scrambler therapy, ozone autohemotherapy, gabapentin, and neuromodulation.
Scrambler therapy (ST) is a non-invasive therapy. Electrodes are placed around the area of pain for artificial neurons to deliver “non-pain” signals to the brain. This is the opposite of the traditional approach of blocking the transmission of pain. As the brain receives the scrambled electrical signals, it perceives them as normal. This retrains the brain to believe there is no pain in the treated area. Further testing is necessary for conclusive results.
Ozone autohemotherapy is an alternative medicine that increases oxygen in the body with ozone gas. Ozone therapy gas is derived from medical-grade oxygen sources in hospitals. It is thought to stimulate the immune system and treat several diseases, including PHN. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has stated that ozone has no proven medical application and is a toxic gas. Additional research is necessary to prove the safety and efficacy of ozone therapy for the treatment of PHN.
Gabapentin is an anticonvulsant medication prescribed to help manage seizures in people who have epilepsy. It has also been shown to be effective in treating restless leg syndrome and PHN. Gabapentin reduces the excitability of nerve cells in the brain to prevent seizures and relieve pain for certain conditions in the nervous system.
Neuromodulation therapy refers to restoring proper function of the nervous system. Although rarely used in managing neuropathic pain, types of neuromodulation include spinal cord stimulation (SCS) and peripheral nerve stimulation (PNS). SCS delivers mild electrical pulses that interrupt pain signals sent through the spinal cord. PNS works similarly, except it targets peripheral nerves.
While neuromodulation is not a first line treatment for postherpetic neuralgia, there are studies showing that SCS and PNS can provide significant and long-lasting pain relief. For more information, individuals should speak with their pain management specialist.