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Is Your Pain Being Caused By the Trigeminal Nerve?

pain trigeminal nerve Nov 12, 2020

Severe facial pain is immediately disruptive to everyday life. And unless you were in a recent accident, you may not have any clue what’s causing sudden and significant pain over one or more areas of your face. 

The trigeminal nerve is one of the most common sources of chronic facial pain on one side of the face. At first, many people mistake trigeminal pain for a dental abscess or a migraine condition. But if you’ve been living with facial pain for more than six months, your dental examinations are all clear, and traditional pain medications aren’t effective, you may be suffering from neuropathic pain stemming from the trigeminal nerve.

Keep reading to learn signs and symptoms that indicate the trigeminal nerve is causing your chronic pain.   

What Is the Trigeminal Nerve?

The trigeminal nerve is a cranial nerve that carries sensations from the face to your brain. It’s actually a pair of nerves — one on each side of the face. Each nerve has three branches that control sensations in different areas of the face and mouth.

  • Ophthalmic branch: eye, upper eyelid and forehead
  • Maxillary branch: lower eyelid, cheek, nostril, upper lip and upper gum
  • Mandibular branch: jaw, lower lip and lower gum 

Trigeminal neuralgia (TN) — also called tic douloureux — is a chronic pain condition that develops when the trigeminal nerve becomes injured, damaged or compressed. In many cases, TN occurs when a nearby blood vessel presses against the nerve and causes pressure, irritation and malfunction. TN can also develop with age (it’s most common in women over 50), a tumor, facial trauma, a stroke, or as a result of multiple sclerosis.  

TN is one of the most painful medical conditions ever recorded. Cycles of sharp, stabbing, burning or electric facial pain come and go spontaneously or as a result of activities that wouldn’t normally cause pain. Many people with TN are afraid to socialize and go out because they live in constant anticipation of the next attack. It can be a physically and mentally crippling condition that leads to severe depression, anxiety and social isolation. 

Luckily, there are treatments available to help reduce pain and help people with TN regain their quality of life. Read on to learn common signs and symptoms of TN and the treatments available.    

7 Signs and Symptoms of Trigeminal Neuralgia (TN)

Trigeminal neuralgia typically causes distinct symptoms that meet one of more of these patterns:

  1. Severe bursts of facial pain. For many people with TN, episodes of pain erupt spontaneously, with no known trigger. The pain is severe, sharp, burning, stabbing or electric, and episodes can last anywhere from several seconds to several minutes before receding. 
  2. Periods of remission. Many people experience multiple attacks of pain over several hours, days, weeks or months, and then the pain goes into remission. Periods of remission can last anywhere from a few days to a few years.   
  3. Pain that is triggered by normal, daily activities. Sometimes, facial pain is triggered by a specific motion or activity. Common activities that trigger TN include: touching your face, eating, drinking, shaving, applying makeup, washing your face, brushing your teeth, talking, smiling, blowing your nose, or the wind hitting your face.  
  4. One-sided facial pain. TN typically only affects one side of the face and jaw. It rarely occurs on both sides of the face.  
  5. A burning sensation or facial numbness. Sometimes, a TN flare-up may be preceded by persistent aching, burning, tingling or facial numbness over the affected area of the face. 
  6. Pain episodes that worsen over time. Over time, episodes of pain usually worsen in frequency, duration and severity. Pain attacks last longer and there are fewer, shorter periods of remission between attacks.   
  7. Muscle spasms. Muscle spasms or facial twitching may occur after an episode of pain. 

How Is Chronic TN Treated?

Trigeminal neuralgia is a chronic, progressive condition that’s usually managed with medications and surgery. 

  • Medications. Anticonvulsants and muscle relaxants are first-line treatments prescribed to block pain signals from reaching the brain. These medications are very strong and may produce side effects like dizziness, confusion, double vision, drowsiness and nausea. Aside from side effects, there are several downsides to anticonvulsants and muscle relaxants. Many people require high doses for effective treatment, but higher dosages run the risk of producing more side effects. Additionally, while these medications can be effective at first, TN symptoms often become resistant to medications over time.  

 

Because medications often become less effective over time, surgery is the treatment of choice for many people suffering from TN. There are multiple procedures used to reduce pain and symptoms, with varying levels of success. 

 

  • Microvascular decompression. During the procedure, the blood vessel pressing against the trigeminal nerve is moved out of the way and an insulating cushion is placed between the nerve and the blood vessel. This surgery is the most invasive treatment for TN, but also the most effective for long-lasting pain relief. 
  • Rhizotomy. There are several types of rhizotomies, but all involve destroying the nerve fibers that carry pain signals to the brain. Rhizotomy procedures are minimally invasive and performed on an outpatient basis. There’s a chance the nerve fibers will regrow after a few years and cause pain again, but rhizotomy procedures can be repeated if necessary. 
  • Radiosurgery (Gamma Knife). During the procedure, radiation is used to damage the trigeminal nerve and prevent the transmission of pain signals. It’s the least invasive procedure to treat TN. If there’s a recurrence of pain after a few years, the procedure can be repeated.      

Over-the-counter pain medications are typically not effective for managing trigeminal nerve pain. 

Where to Turn If Traditional Treatment Is Ineffective

As we’ve mentioned above, some people with TN stop responding well to medications and surgery isn’t always effective for long-lasting relief. Is there an alternative option for people suffering from excruciating trigeminal neuralgia?

At Radiant Pain Relief Centres, we perform scrambler therapy to help people living with chronic, debilitating pain. The procedure uses cutaneous (skin surface) electrostimulation to retrain the brain to accept non-pain, non-threat information. Our FDA-cleared device digitally creates and sends synthetic, rapidly changing, non-pain nerve transmissions across the same nerve fibers sending pain signals. Over the course of several treatment sessions, the brain will come to accept the new non-pain, non-threat signals as the correct message. Scrambler therapy helps restore the brain to a healthy perception of pain and provides long-lasting relief for the majority of our patients.   

Scrambler therapy has proven effective for people suffering from chronic, neuropathic pain that hasn’t responded to traditional treatments. The therapy is non-invasive and quite safe. 

Radiant Pain Relief Centres Treats Chronic Pain

Radiant Pain Relief Centres exclusively performs scrambler therapy for the treatment of chronic pain. We treat a wide range of chronic conditions that affect multiple body parts. Because of our exclusivity, our center has a level of experience and expertise you won’t find anywhere else. On average, our patients experience an 84% reduction in pain, and more than 90% of our patients conclude therapy with a pain score of zero or near zero.  

We have a start-to-finish comprehensive care model and payment plans that make scrambler therapy accessible and affordable for everyone with chronic pain. We offer a free evaluation and free treatment session so that you can make an informed decision on whether or not this treatment is right for you before you invest. 

It’s time to take the leap and find lasting relief for your chronic pain. Call us today or submit a contact form for more information. 

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