Trigeminal neuralgia is a condition characterized by intermittent attacks of facial pain. The condition affects the trigeminal nerve, a large nerve in the head that carries sensations such as pain, pressure, touch and temperature from the face to the brain. If you have trigeminal neuralgia, slight stimulation of the face from activities such as touching the face, brushing the teeth or swallowing can trigger a pain response.
Compression of the trigeminal nerve by an adjoining blood vessel is one of the main causes of trigeminal neuralgia. This compression gradually wears away the nerve’s insulating membrane and irritates the nerve. Trigeminal neuralgia affects women more than men and it mostly occurs after the age of 50.
Pain is episodic and often described as an electric shock like or stabbing. It is usually felt on the jaw or cheek of one side and can last several seconds. It may come and go and gradually worsens with subsequent attacks. Trigeminal neuralgia can take days or months to resolve.
Trigeminal neuralgia is mainly diagnosed based on your description of the symptoms. Pain relief may be achieved by antiseizure and antidepressant medication. Non-surgical treatments provide relief to the patient and improve function and quality of life. These treatments include:
Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS): This is an electro-physical method of achieving pain relief. Electrodes are applied to the skin of the face and head and bursts of low-energy current are delivered to stimulate the affected nerve. The continuous stimulation inhibits the pain pathway relieving pain.
Interferential therapy: This is also an electro-physical method that delivers continuous electrical stimulation deep into the tissue to relieve pain. Two different signals are applied over the area and when they interact, a therapeutic low-frequency current is generated. This blocks the pain pathway and increases circulation to the area.
Manual therapy: Trigeminal neuralgia may sometimes be aggravated by problems with the cervical spine. Manual therapy to address the cervical spine can not only reduce neck pain but also reduce the pain of trigeminal neuralgia.