Shingles is a viral infection caused by the same virus as chickenpox, varicella-zoster. Shingles is a remnant from this virus that lays dormant in the body and reactivates later in life. It causes a painful rash that usually appears on the torso, sometimes progressing into blisters and boils. Shingles can be extremely painful and causes a variety of sensations from burning to tingling to numbness. It also causes other symptoms like sensitivity, fever, headache, and fatigue. Long term pain can also persist, even after the rash has cleared from the body.
Shingles attacks the nerve cells, making it extremely hard to get relief from pain. Shingles can also block certain receptors that usually allow people to get relief from medications like non-steroidal anti-inflammatories and opioids. Due to the inability for the receptors to be properly targeted by these medications, doses prescribed for people with shingles are often higher. High doses of pain relieving products like opioids can cause addiction and dependence, often doing more harm than good.
Endocannabinoid receptors are found all over the body, so they are not blocked in the same way as other receptors, allowing for cannabis to provide pain relief in a way other products cannot. Cannabis also has neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory properties that can greatly reduce the pain and long-term effects caused by shingles. A 2011 study published in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology found that cannabis had multifaceted nuero-protective effects. The study, which used animal models, found that this quality of cannabis was caused by the activation of CB1 receptors that helped prevent damage to nerves.
Cannabis is known for its effective analgesic qualities, especially in relation to neuropathic pain, which is the kind of pain most often caused by shingles. Neuropathic pain, which often doesn’t react to traditional pain relieving pharmaceuticals, can be greatly aided by THC, according to a 2009 study from Neurotherapeutics. A 2015 study from the Journal of Oral and Facial Pain and Headache also showed that cannabinoids were effective at relieving neuropathic pain that did not respond to other treatments. The study was a review of various randomized placebo-controlled studies conducted starting in the 1950s, which all added support to the conclusion made by the review. The review also noted an overall improvement of sleep, nausea, anxiety, and appetite by patients who consumed cannabis in the studies.
Topical cannabis products are a great choice for people with shingles. Shingles pain is often located in specific areas, making it a great option for being targeted by topical cannabis medications. Cannabis topicals can come in the form of salves, creams, balms, or oils and they are absorbed through the skin. The topical products bond to CB2 receptors when they are absorbed into the skin and provide localized pain relief. There are many topicals on the market today, some favorites in California are Sweet ReLeaf, Flower Power and Xternal.
THC-infused topicals provide pain relieving properties without being psychoactive because they are not absorbed into the blood stream. CBD infused topical products can also provide people with anti-inflammatory medication to help decrease inflammation that causes pain and physical rashes on the body. Medical cannabis, no matter the form, is a great choice to help people with shingles find relief from their pain and suffering.