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Caring for PHN sufferers

Patients who suffer from PHN are often elderly and in considerable pain and they need the care, help and support of those around them. The caregivers are nevertheless affected too.

If you are a caregiver (either a professional or a family member) then here are some ways in which you can make life more comfortable for someone suffering from PHN:

  • Ensure that your patient is receiving pain medicine and that it is working. Each patient responds differently to the medication for PHN and the doctor may have to change the dose or the actual medication to get the best results.
  • If you still have no success, then ask for your patient to be referred to a pain specialist or neurologist who will have specialist knowledge in this field.
  • If there are any side effects from any medication administered, then keep a note of these and report them to the doctor as soon as possible.
  • The pain endured with PHN is usually confined to a particular area of the body and you can help by avoiding this sore side.  Make sure any clothing is as loose as possible. Cool compresses may help to relieve discomfort but remember patients can be sensitive to the cold when suffering from PHN
  • The pain from PHN can be very stressful. Try to think of ways of relieving this stress. Warm, soaking baths can be helpful.  Another outlet would be meditation – it might be worth enlisting the help of someone who can come and suggest how this can be done on a daily basis. Also play relaxing music frequently so that the patient can listen quietly and divert his or her attention away from the pain.
  • Keep an eye out for possible sadness and depression. The extreme pain and feeling of helplessness can definitely cause these conditions. You may have to ask the doctor for medication to treat depression if it becomes a real problem.
  • The patient may not feel like eating nor sleeping. It is important to encourage the patient to take regular nourishment – there may be some meals or particular food that appeals more than others even if they only eat small portions. Sleeping will be easier if the patient is relaxed so use some of the suggestions above before settling the patient for the night’s sleep.
  • Pain can make a person cross and moody especially with those around them. Do not be upset by this as it is not directed at you but is caused by the pain.
  • If you are looking after someone with PHN, you must be careful not to neglect yourself. Your strength is important and you must ensure that you also get plenty of nourishment and sleep.  You also need regular time away from the patient so that you can have some enjoyment and not become isolated.


It is important to keep in mind that in most people who develop PHN, the pain will gradually resolve with time.