Trigeminal Neuralgia and Facial Pain

Occasionally, I will have someone come to me with symptoms of classical trigeminal neuralgia.  I’ve been in practice for a long time so through the years, it has been enough people that I thought I would write an article about this painful condition called “trigeminal neuralgia”.

In fact, I currently have a patient who has suffered with trigeminal neuralgia for years.  This patient has traveled a great distance to see me because he felt that I could help him when no one else has been able to do so.

As I will discuss later in this article, the trigeminal nerve has 3 branches so the pain that people can experience can vary from person to person.  The gentleman that is currently my patient has had pain on one side of his face above his right lip and cheek to the right of his nose.

His pain moves over towards his right ear.  He has described his pain as so severe that he won’t even shave the right side of his upper lip.  Even light touch or a gentle breeze causes him to have tremendous pain.

The good news is that I have been working with him for 3 weeks and he is able to shave again.  Needless to say, he is really happy.  The relief for him has been amazing especially considering how long he has suffered.

What is Trigeminal Neuralgia?

Most people who have trigeminal neuralgia don’t even know that is what they suffer from even if they have been to many Drs. for the pain they are having in their face and head.

Some people have been told that they have TMJ (temporomandibular joint dysfunction) which causes pain in their jaw.  Others will have headache pain, pain above an eye in the forehead or pain in their scalp.

The reason for the difference in pain patterns with trigeminal neuralgia is due to the fact that the trigeminal nerve has 3 branches.  One branch travels along the jaw.  A second branch goes above the lip into the cheek and the third branch goes above the eye into the forehead.

Does Trigeminal Nerve Pain go to One or Both Sides of the Face?

There are even nerve fibers of the trigeminal nerve that go into the scalp so multiple pain referral patterns are possible.  Patients often describe their pain as “one sided” and severe.

This one sided pain pattern is due to the fact that there are actually right and left trigeminal nerves that go to the face and into the head.  If the cell nucleus in the brainstem is irritated or agitated it can send the painful sensations into one side of the face or head.

An important point to consider is that the trigeminal nucleus is in the brainstem which means that it is in the cervical spine (the neck).  The brainstem is amazing and fascinating in that it is an extension of actual “brain material” that goes into the spine.

How is the Cervical Spine related to the Trigeminal Nerve?

The cervical spine is unique in the regard that it houses “brain material” including the trigeminal nucleus.  This is reflected in the fact that another anatomical term for the trigeminal nucleus is the trigeminocervical nucleus.

The thoracic and lumbar spines both house the spinal cord, but they don’t include the brainstem like the cervical spine does.

Another interesting fact about the brainstem and cervical spine are that they are a huge stimulus for the parasympathetic autonomic nervous system which controls the rest, digest and relaxation side of our nervous system.

When there is pressure on the brainstem, it can cause facial pain, neck pain, shoulder pain, upper arm pain and even numbness or weakness of the arms and hands. It can also cause agitation to the nervous system overall and cause an imbalance between the parasympathetic and sympathetic divisions of the Autonomic Nervous System.

Can Trigeminal Neuralgia cause Digestive Problems?

It isn’t unusual for a patient to come in with resting tremors or digestive problems, and I work with their cervical spine using my disc rehydration protocol combined with deep tissue laser treatments, work with their gut health and inflammation levels and I see their nervous system calm down.

The trigeminal nerve is interesting in that it is one of the 12 cranial nerves.  It is a rule breaker though.  It is the only one of the 12 cranial nerves that isn’t housed in the skull “cranium”.

The trigeminal nucleus (the cluster of cell bodies that control the nerves) is actually outside of the cranium and goes into the neck down to about the C5 level.

I believe that this one detail and fact is why it is critically important realize that trigeminal neuralgia can have its epicenter in the cervical spine.

Can Surgery help Trigeminal Neuralgia?

Many procedures are performed in attempts to help people get relief from trigeminal nerve pain.  In my experience, injections, nerve burning (radiofrequency nerve root ablation), and surgeries are the most common.

The problem with these procedures, in my opinion, is that they usually only provide temporary relief if they help at all.  Years ago, I had a patient come in named Mandy.  Mandy was a young woman who had the nerves burned in her neck.

She came to me in a severe state of poor health because after she had the nerve burning procedure, she couldn’t hold her head up on her own.  She had to hold her chin and jaw with her hand to see in front of her and to have a conversation.

Within a couple of weeks of beginning treatment in my clinic, Mandy had improved and was able to hold her head up without assistance.  She was also able to get off of her pain medication.  She and her family were so happy.

Injections are not a free pass.  While they can sometimes give some relief, they are also damaging to the soft tissues such as discs, muscles, ligaments and bones.  Look up the side effects.

Bones are soft tissues and that is why one of the side effects of injections can be avascular necrosis (bone breakdown due to loss of blood supply).

Everyone knows that surgery is risky and that it doesn’t always work.  My real issue with surgery is that it is always invasive.  No matter how sophisticated and advanced the surgery is, it is still invasive and therefore has the risks that go with all invasive procedures.

The other issue I have with surgery is that the body was made with body parts that belong in the body.  Even surgeons know that.  Often, they will tell their patients to use surgery as a last resort.

When surgery is performed, tissues and structures are always being removed that belong in the body.  We were wonderfully created.

What is a Natural Treatment for Trigeminal Neuralgia?

I prefer an approach that works on the health of the tissues and trying to improve the quality of the tissues while allowing them to remain inside of the body.

I work with trigeminal neuralgia by reducing the pressure on the brainstem and limiting inflammation.  This is done through a combination of treatment methods and has proven to be quite rewarding for my patients and myself.

If you are suffering and dealing with trigeminal neuralgia or trigeminal nerve pain, you owe it to yourself to contact my clinic today to see if you are a candidate for my protocol.

Health Is Happiness,

Dr. Keith Currie

Can Yoga Help Low Back Pain?
What Does Sciatica Feel Like?

"When I came here, I had severe neck pain and no range of mobility. I couldn’t turn my head left to right, and had shooting arm pain down my left arm. I came to see Dr. Currie to see if he could help me with that pain. Since my treatments were completed, everything has been great. I have had no problems whatsoever since I came through the treatments. I have great range of motion. I’ve been able to do everything I was doing before I had the problem and life’s been great."

by - Kevin