Acupuncture for Trigeminal Neuralgia

By: Shelley Conn

Trigeminal Neuralgia (TN) is a long, difficult name for simply one of the most painful conditions of the face. Also known as “tic douloureax”, Trigeminal Neuralgia is a condition that causes excruciating face pain that can be described as an electric shock or a bolt of lightening that can travel across the face. Sufferers also describe the pain as stabbing or burning nerve pain. The pain is usually intermittent, and can last anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes.

Trigeminal Neuralgia can strike at any age, but onset seems to be more prevalent between the ages of 40 and 60. TN pain is confined to the upper jaw, lower jaw, cheeks, and the forehead and eye area. In most cases the pain is limited to one side of the face, and can be triggered by touching or moving the face, dental treatment, eating, tooth brushing, or even wind.

Common medical treatments for TN pain involve prescription drugs or surgery. The most commonly prescribed drug for this condition is Neurontin. Surgery for TN is a complicated procedure involving the brain, and is not always successful.

Other treatments for TN pain include massage, chiropractic and acupuncture. As an acupuncturist, I have treated TN in my clinic with some success. I have found that acupuncture will keep the pain under control, and in some instances alleviate the pain for months at a time.

Within the framework of Chinese medicine and acupuncture, pain of this type is caused by a stagnation of energy and blood that normally moves smoothly throughout the body. Treatment involves opening energy pathways and moving blood in the area of pain. To do this, I typically use one or more modality, including acupuncture, heat, massage and herbal therapy. Treatments usually involve weekly visits until the pain is under control.

If you are suffering from Trigeminal Neuralgia and have exhausted other options, I recommend that you give acupuncture and Chinese medicine a try. This ancient healing art has been around for thousands of years because it works!

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