Pain that originates in the face could be caused by a nerve disorder, an infection in the facial structure, an injury, or could have no known cause. Common causes of pain in the face include the following:
- Sinus infection
- Facial injury
- TMJ disorders
- Abscessed tooth
- Trigeminal Neuralgia
Trigeminal Neuralgia Explained
You may recognize all of the causes of facial pain on the list- except one: trigeminal neuralgia. You are probably looking for an explanation of this term.
Trigeminal neuralgia, TN-also referred to as tic douloureux, is a condition characterized by sporadic, shooting pain in the face. This disorder affects the trigeminal nerve, which is one of the largest nerves in your head.
This nerve sends impulses of pressure, temperature, pain, and touch to your brain from your jaw, forehead, gums, face, and the area around your eyes.
Causes of Trigeminal Neuralgia
Most frequently, trigeminal neuralgia is caused when a blood vessel presses on the nerve near your brain stem.
The changes in the blood vessels in the brain can, over time, cause the blood vessels to rub against the trigeminal nerve root.
This constant rubbing eventually wears away the protective covering, or myelin, of the nerve, which results in irritation of the nerve.
Symptoms of Trigeminal Neuralgia
Trigeminal neuralgia results in sudden, severe, and electric shock-like, or stabbing pains that last for several seconds. You can feel this pain on your face around your eyes, lips, nose, forehead, and scalp.
The symptoms can occur when you’re brushing your teeth, touching your face for some reason, putting on your makeup, swallowing while eating, or even a light breeze blowing across your face.
This is typically considered to be one of the most painful conditions seen in the medical community.
Generally, you will feel pain on one side of your cheek or jaw, but some individuals will experience pain on both sides, but at different times.
The attacks could be repeated one after another and could come and go during the day. Additionally, they can last for a few days, a few weeks, or even months at a time. In some cases, the attacks could disappear for months and even years.
This disorder is much more common in women and typically does not affect individuals younger than 50 years old.
Diagnosing Trigeminal Neuralgia
Your doctor will most likely use MRI, or Magnetic Resonance Imaging in order to determine what is causing your trigeminal nerve to become irritated.
There aren’t currently any other tests that will be able to determine whether or not you have trigeminal neuralgia.
Other tests can, however, help to rule out other potential causes of facial pain. typically, trigeminal neuralgia is diagnosed due to the description of the individual’s symptoms.
Treating Trigeminal Neuralgia
First of all, you should speak with your doctor if you believe that you’re suffering from trigeminal neuralgia.
Describe your pain and other symptoms in detail with your doctor and he/she will be able to determine whether or not it is the trigeminal nerve that is causing the pain or something else entirely.
After he/she performs some testing, your doctor will tell you the diagnosis and discuss various options for treatment with you.
Speak with your doctor about using anticonvulsant medications, which will block the pain signals from being sent from the nerve to your brain.
Other medications, such as muscle relaxers can help to reduce your pain. Be sure to review side effects with your doctor before agreeing to take medications. Side effects of the above medications include: dizziness, drowsiness, and nausea.
Discuss microvascular decompression surgery with your neurologist. This treatment can be very effective because it removes the blood vessels to the nerve, therefore helping to reduce pain.
For this procedure, the doctor drills a hole, separates arteries from the nerve and places a pad between the two to keep them separated. For the most part, this procedure is successful. However in some cases, pain can recur.
Research and consider using PSRTR, or percutaneous stereotactic radiofrequency thermal rhizotomy procedure. For this surgery, an electric shock will be used to numb the pain.
A surgeon will stick a needle into your skull with an electrode in the middle. He/she will guide it until it is next to the nerve.
The electric current will then damage nerve fibers that are causing the pain until you can’t feel it anymore. Following this procedure, you will most likely experience numbness in your face.
Another option is the PSR procedure, or partial sensory rhizotomy. This is typically the last resort to stop the pain of trigeminal neuralgia.
In this procedure, the surgeon will totally cut the trigeminal nerve, which will result in permanent numbness in your face. This option is irreversible, therefore, you should consider other options before going this route.
At Home Treatments for Trigeminal Neuralgia Pain
You should know that, as with anything else, there are some things you can do at home on your own to treat your trigeminal neuralgia pain. Following are some excellent DIY tips.
- There are certain herbal mixtures that have been proven to soothe nerve pain when applied to the skin.
- Shao Yao Gan Cao Tang- this remedy has been used in traditional Chinese medicine- it is a mixture of licorice and peony. When taken orally, you can get relief from spasmodic pains.
- Some topical pain relief ointments contain capsaicin, which is what jalapenos and cayenne peppers get their heat from. These are very effective at relieving pain.
- Herbs such as kava kava, meadowsweet, passionflower, and valerian have analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties and can be very effective at relieving nerve pain. Ointments containing evening primrose, verbena, and peppermint essential oils are also effective at treating nerve pain.
- Sipping on herbal teas can calm your nerves. Consider teas containing comfrey, chamomile, lemon balm, and St. John’s Wort.