Intercostal Nerve Blocks Can Help Patients with Shingles Pain

Intercostal Nerve Blocks Can Help Patients with Shingles Pain

Shingles is a condition that can develop after an individual has contracted chickenpox. It is similar to chickenpox but can be more devastating because it affects older individuals and the nervous system. It can lead to chronic pain even after it has been treated because of the nerve damage it causes. Intercostal nerve blocks can treat this nerve pain associated with shingles.


What is Shingles?


Shingles is an infection of an individual nerve and the skin surface that is supplied by the nerve. It is caused by the varicella-zoster virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox. Anyone who has recovered from chickenpox can develop shingles. It is not possible to have shingles if you have never been exposed to chickenpox or the varicella virus that causes it. Once exposed, the virus can lay dormant for years. Most adults with the dormant virus never experience an outbreak of shingles or any further problems. However, in some individuals, it may reactivate multiple times.


Shingles are most common in people over the age of 50 years. However, the virus may reappear in people of all ages who have previously had chickenpox. Pain is the most common symptom of shingles. This can be a constant dull, burning, or gnawing pain, or sharp, stabbing pain that comes and goes. There may also be a blistering skin rash. This usually appears in one or more distinct bands, called dermatomes. It may also appear on the face in a group, or break out on a quarter of the face. These dermatomes correspond to a single sensory nerve. This is why infection causes isolated skin lesions, rather than a body-wide rash, and nerve pain.


What is an Intercostal Nerve Block?


The intercostal nerves run along each rib from the spine in the back to the sternum in the chest. These nerves can become irritated, inflamed, or damaged, which can result in a band-like pain along the chest wall. An intercostal nerve block can relieve this pain and increase circulation in the area. During this procedure, a local anesthetic is injected near the nerves that supply the area in pain. The steroid helps to decrease inflammation in the specific location where it is most needed. The steroid may help the injury heal by reducing inflammation. It may provide permanent relief or a period of a few weeks/months of relief while the injury is healing.


How Can Intercostal Nerve Blocks Help with Shingles Pain?


Intercostal neuralgia is neuropathic pain involving the intercostal nerves. These are the nerves that arise from the spinal cord, below the ribs. Intercostal neuralgia tends to cause thoracic pain, which affects your chest wall and upper trunk. This intercostal pain is widely associated with shingles and nerve damage to the thoracic trunk. Intercostal nerve blocks can treat this nerve pain and inflammation at the source. These nerve blocks consist of steroids that have anti-inflammatory properties and numbing agents. They are safe to used and a great alternative to surgical procedures and opioid medications.