PHN Pain Relief in a Patch

The Varicella-Zoster virus, otherwise known as Chicken Pox, has an insidious cousin in the form of the shingles – a painful, blistering skin rash brought on by stress or sickness that causes one-sided pain, tingling, or burning in the affected areas. Needless to say, the condition is as painful as it is difficult to treat effectively.

At Non-Surgical Orthopaedics, we are now one of the only practices in the Atlanta area offering a new form of treatment for PHN, or postherpetic neuralgia (post-shingles nerve pain). Qutenza® (FDA approved November 2009) treats and manages neuropathic pain associated with a patient recovering from shingles in the form of a patch.  Amazingly, a single, one-hour, localized treatment can give sufferers up to three months of relief from PHN. Treatments can be repeated as needed. According to The Medical News (, Qutenza is the first prescription-strength topical treatment for PHN to be approved by the FDA in more than 10 years.

Did you know that almost 1 million Americans develop shingles each year? It is estimated that up to one in five people with shingles will experience prolonged pain after shingles, known as PHN. The pain can persist long after the shingles rash clears up and can disrupt sleep, mood, work and the activities of daily living. It is a nasty virus indeed.

The drug has an interesting background. The active ingredient in the medicine is eight percent capsaicin, which is the magic (or dark magic) in chili peppers that gives it the rather profound heat sensation. Capsaicin provides pain reduction by acting on the damaged nerves in the skin that cause pain after shingles. The effects of capsaicin wear off over time, which may be associated with the return of pain. It is locally-acting and non-narcotic, and unlikely to cause drowsiness or interact with other drugs. Qutenza can be used alone or with other pain medications.

Qutenza – an overview

  • Acts locally to treat your post-shingles nerve pain
  • Is not a narcotic and is unlikely to interact with other prescription drugs
  • Can be effective by itself or in combination with other pain medications

What are the Side Effects?

Serious side effects can include pain and increases in blood pressure during or right after treatment. In clinical studies, the most common side effects, which occurred in 5% or more of patients, were redness, pain, small bumps, and itching. These occurred at the patch application site.

Arnold J. Weil, M.D., of Non-Surgical Orthopaedics, P.C. in Atlanta, Ga. specializes in spine care and pain management. His office’s approach is to identify and treat the cause of the pain, not just the symptoms. The practice has a strong emphasis on injury prevention, treatment and rehabilitation for back, neck and upper body injuries. The practice has highly skilled and trained Board Certified Physicians.

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