Nerve blocks ease lingering pain from shingles

Half of patients diagnosed with shingles later suffer from postherpetic neuralgia


CORAL SPRINGS, Fla. – Susan Iannuccillo didn't need to hear about the pain caused by shingles -- she lived it.

"It robs you of your motivation and it isolates you," said Iannuccillo, 73. "The pain is an isolator because you don't want to go see anybody or talk to anybody."

About half of patients who are diagnosed with shingles later suffer from postherpetic neuralgia, a lingering pain that remains even after the rash is gone.

"Those particular nerves will become damaged and once the nerve is damaged, they will begin to send pain signals that are very uncontrollable," said Dr. Ira Fox with Anesthesia Pain Care Consultants in South Florida.

Fox uses nerve blockers -- a local anesthetic injected into the spinal cord -- to ease the pain.

"You're really looking for the nerve blocks to try and break the pain cycle and hopefully initiate some type of healing process in that damaged area," he said.

Some studies say the earlier a patient receives a nerve block, the better the outcome.

Iannuccillo took painkillers for three years but nothing helped. After three nerve block injections near her spine and rib cage, she's enjoying her life again.

"It's made a world of difference," she said. "I can do almost anything I want to now. I don't have to think, well, I can't do it today because of the pain."