It can take anywhere from several months to several years for individuals afflicted with shingles to completely recover, as stated by NIHSeniorHealth. Although the sores from shingles usually heal within a month of their initial onset, the pain caused by the infection can linger indefinitely in severe cases.
When the pain from the shingles virus lasts for more than 3 months, the patient has developed a condition called postherpetic neuralgia (PHN), as reported by WebMD. The shingles virus causes PHN by damaging the skin's nerve cells.
Early treatment helps prevent a bout of shingles from turning into PHN. Patients who begin taking antiviral medications within a few days of their first symptoms have a lower chance of suffering from prolonged pain.