Why Does Shingles Cause Pain?

shingles cause pain

Chickenpox causes an itchy rash. But, if you get shingles from that same virus years later, the results are different. Here’s why shingles cause pain when it flares up.


One of the first ways that you learn that you have shingles is an intense pain that seems constant. Called neuralgia, this feeling can affect different areas of the torso and face. This includes the chest and lower back, too.

Along with pain, you may also feel tingling, or a feeling or pins and needles. This symptom, paresthesia, may also herald the appearance of a blistering and painful skin rash, too.

Afterward, however, you may develop a chronic condition called postherpetic neuralgia. This means that you would experience the pain of shingles even after the rash has gone away. Not everyone develops this condition. But, older age plays a factor in the risk.

Treatment Options

Currently, postherpetic neuralgia is incurable. Doctors use prescriptions to manage the symptoms. The Mayo Clinic currently recommends the following treatments:

  • Skin patches, capsaicin, and lidocaine
  • Anticonvulsants
  • Antidepressants
  • Steroid injections
  • Opioid painkillers

No one particular treatment is effective for all patients. Instead, doctors use a combination of different methods to treat symptoms.

However, researchers are working to change that. Their recent discoveries may lead to novel treatments to prevent post-neuralgia from becoming chronic, as well as fighting acute pain.

The data has led them to believe that inhibiting as an inflammatory mediator, or cytokines, will help. The cytokines, TNF, has already shown positive results in lab animals when inhibited. And, separate research on anti-TNF medication supports these findings.

Scientific literature has already shown that people who are on anti-TNF medications for a separate problem, like rheumatoid arthritis, are less likely to develop post-neuralgia. They are currently trying to solidify the link between TNF-inhibition and post-neuralgia.

Final Thoughts

Shingles cause pain as a by-product of the actual virus. And, treatments thus far have only treated the symptoms. But, the research looks promising.

Eventually, you will be able to say “good-bye” to the chronic pain of this condition. Until then, the only thing you can do is treat the symptoms.