How to use cold therapy in the management of shingles

Shingles is a condition that occurs due to the reactivation of the varicella zoster virus. It is the same virus that instigates chickenpox upon the first exposure inside the roots of the cranial or spinal nerves. It is important to note that shingles produces a skin rash which blisters that is often accompanied by severe stabbing, burning or throbbing pain. Even though cold therapy such as the application of ice can provide temporary relief from the pain caused by shingles, extended use can lead to localized tissue damage.

If an individual is suffering from shingles, it is best that you are prepared to handle the symptoms to provide comfort to the individual. Just remember to consult a doctor first before you will try to use cold therapy to ease the pain to determine if it is suitable for the individual.

Mode of action

Shingles-cold therapy

Even though cold therapy such as the application of ice can provide temporary relief from the pain caused by shingles, extended use can lead to localized tissue damage.

Always bear in mind that cold can lead to the constriction of the blood vessels in the skin, diminished muscle spasms, reduced nerve conduction speed and momentary pain relief. With extended application of ice, the blood vessel constriction will lead to tissue damage due to the shortage of nutrients and oxygen in the affected area. In most cases, many cannot detect that this is happening since cold eases the pain that would normally accompany insufficient flow of blood.

Application of cold therapy

The safe application of ice on the skin affected by pain must be limited to no more than 20 minutes per session or when the skin of the individual becomes numb. Those who suffer from pain when ice is removed must apply heat right away since the pain is an indication of tissue damage. Alternatives to ice include cold packs, cooling massage or cold water immersion.

What are the possible complications?

It is important to note that ice can cause tissue damage once the water and fats within the skin freeze. The symptoms of cold-induced tissue damage including superficial frostbite that leads to pain and then followed by blistering 24-36 hours after. The white or bluish skin along with the absence of pain often indicates deep frostbite. The deep frostbite blisters are usually extensive than the superficial frostbite. Once the blister fluid resorbs, it will leave behind a hard, black-colored gangrenous tissue on the affected area that should be removed surgically. If you want to learn how to properly manage frostbite, you can register for first aid training in your area today.

Contraindications of cold therapy

Individuals who are suffering from vascular disease, history of hypersensitivity to cold or Raynaud’s disease and nerve injuries must not use ice for shingles or any other condition. These individuals can develop injuries more quickly than those who do not have such conditions and they might not be able to detect when an injury has already occurred.

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