While shingles is most common on your torso, such as your chest and back, you may develop a shingles rash anywhere on your body, including the back of your neck.
Shingles, which results from the herpes zoster virus, is a condition that causes painful, burning rashes.
A healthcare professional should examine any unusual rash on the back of your neck. If you suspect shingles, prompt treatment is especially important to shorten the amount of time you have the condition and to help prevent complications.
Read on to learn more about shingles on the back of your neck, including the key symptoms and how a healthcare professional can treat it.
Shingles is known for causing a painful rash that tends to develop on one side of your body. It’s caused by the herpes zoster virus, which affects nerve cells. Damage to these nerves can lead to skin symptoms in the affected area.
While the torso is the most common place for shingles to develop, the rash may sometimes extend from your chest and back to your shoulders and neck.
Herpes zoster is related to varicella zoster, the virus that causes chickenpox. Chickenpox tends to cause rashes all over your body. Having chickenpox earlier in life increases your chance of developing shingles as an adult.
A shingles rash on the back of your neck can be difficult to identify by sight. If you can see your neck in a mirror, you may notice a stripe that is pink or red on lighter skin and purple or brown on darker skin.
In addition to the back of your neck, you might develop a rash on other areas on the same side of your body, such as your shoulder, cheek, or chest.
Shingles is also known for causing fluid-filled blisters along the rash. These eventually scab over and may temporarily scar.
One difference between shingles and other types of skin rashes is that it can cause significant pain and discomfort. Shingles can also be itchy. If you have this type of rash on the back of your neck, you might experience:
- pain in the affected area
- burning sensations
- tingling that may come and go
These symptoms may occur 1 to 2 days before the rash appears on the back of your neck.
Regardless of where you develop a shingles rash, it’s also common to experience flu-like symptoms when you have this type of viral infection. These can include:
- muscle aches
- upset stomach
The pain and burning sensations that accompany the rash set shingles apart from other types of skin rashes. Shingles also tends to occur on only one side of your body.
An inflamed, blistering, red-to-brown rash like the one common in shingles could also be a symptom of:
- drug reactions
- ecthyma, a type of skin infection that’s similar to impetigo but occurs deep inside your skin
- herpes simplex
- insect bites
- irritant contact dermatitis
- lichen striatus, a rare skin rash that occurs mainly in children, presenting as pink, raised spots that join together to make a scaly linear band
If you have a severe or painful rash on the back of your neck, consult a medical professional right away. They can determine whether it’s related to shingles or another condition.
In fact, it’s important to get medical help within 3 days of developing a shingles rash to help prevent complications such as postherpetic neuralgia. This complication leads to chronic nerve pain in the area of the shingles rash.
A prompt shingles diagnosis can help you get the right treatments to clear up the rash on the back of your neck and prevent complications.
Healthcare professionals treat shingles with oral antiviral medications
- Acyclovir: 800 milligrams five times per day for 5 days
- Famciclovir: 500 milligrams three times per day for 7 days
- Valacyclovir: 1 gram three times per day for 5 days
These treatments help clear up your rashes and decrease symptoms such as pain and itching. They can also help decrease the amount of time you have a shingles rash and accompanying symptoms.
Severe inflammation from shingles may also be treated with corticosteroids such as prednisone.
Antivirals do not treat acute pain from shingles. To help with this, a doctor may recommend taking over-the-counter pain medications such as ibuprofen (Aleve, Advil) or acetaminophen (Tylenol).
Topical treatments may help soothe a shingles rash on the back of your neck. A doctor may prescribe a topical pain cream or recommend an over-the-counter lidocaine ointment.
You can also try applying colloidal oatmeal or calamine lotion to the back of your neck throughout the day, as needed. Applying a cool, wet compress to the area may bring temporary relief as well.
Shingles commonly develops along your torso, including areas of your chest and back. It can also affect the back of your neck in some cases, causing an inflamed rash and severe pain, burning, and tingling.
If you think you might have a shingles rash on the back of your neck, seek medical help right away. The sooner you begin antiviral treatment, the less likely you are to experience long-term symptoms or complications.