On a regular schedule, if your pain is hard to control
A narcotic pain reliever can:
Make you feel sleepy and confused. Do not drink alcohol or use heavy machinery while you are taking it.
Make your skin feel itchy.
Make you constipated (unable to have a bowel movement easily). Try to drink more fluids, eat high-fiber foods, or use stool softeners.
Cause nausea, or make you feel sick to your stomach. Taking the medicine with food may help.
Other medicines for postherpetic neuralgia
Your health care provider may prescribe skin patches that contain lidocaine (a numbing medicine). These may relieve some of your pain for a short time. Lidocaine also comes as a cream that can be applied to areas where a patch is not easily applied.
Zostrix, a cream that contains capsaicin (an extract of pepper), may also reduce your pain.
Two other types of prescription drugs may help reduce your pain. You must take them every day, and they may take several weeks before they begin to help.
Anti-seizures drugs. Gabapentin and pregabalin are the ones that are used most often.
Drugs to treat pain and depression, most often ones called tricyclics, such as amitriptyline or nortriptyline
Both of these types of drugs have side effects. If you have uncomfortable side effects, do not stop taking your medicine without talking with your health care provider first. Your provider may change your dosage or prescribe a different medicine.
Sometimes, a nerve block can be used to temporarily reduce pain. Your provider will tell you if this is right for you.
What else can help?
Many non-medical techniques can help you relax and reduce the stress of chronic pain, such as:
A common type of talk therapy for people with chronic pain is called cognitive behavioral therapy. It may help you learn how to cope with and manage your responses to pain.
When to call the doctor
Call your health care provider if:
Your pain is not well-managed
You think you may be depressed or are having a hard time controlling your emotions
Warts, herpes simplex, and other viral infections. In: Habif TP, ed. Clinical Dermatology. 5th ed. St. Louis, MO: Elsevier Mosby; 2009:chap 12.
Joseph V. Campellone, MD, Division of Neurology, Cooper University Hospital, Camden, NJ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.