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Trigeminal Neuralgia -
Chinese Medicine for Trigeminal Neuralgia.
Trigeminal neuralgia is a condition that affects the trigeminal facial nerves, causing facial pain. People may seek out non conventional treatments such as acupuncture for trigeminal neuralgia pain. The trigeminal nerve itself is the 5th cranial nerve, it innervates the face and splits into three branches - ophthalmic, maxillary and mandibular branches, resulting in eye orbit pain, cheek pain and jaw pain respectively. This chronic pain condition can be either episodic or continuous or both. The episodic form of trigeminal neuralgia is known as the Typical form and it can be episodes of a couple of seconds through to a couple of minutes of extreme facial pain. These episodes can occur multiple times over a few hours. The Atypical form can result in constant burning pain. Generally, episodes can be set off by circumstances such as wind blowing against the face, cold exposure, shaving, brushing teeth, face washing or other benign daily events. In the past this condition was known by the disturbing reputation of the being the suicide disease because the pain was so severe, it lead to depression and suicide ideation.
Trigeminal Neuralgia Treatment
Typical treatment options for trigeminal neuralgia include surgery and medication. Initially medication is considered as a first line approach and typically anticonvulsants are used, these are successful in 80% of cases for pain and symptom management. For less tractable presentations of facial pain other medications may be looked at and as a last resort or in severe cases, surgical intervention may be an option.
Using Acupuncture for Facial Pain
Currently available research is lacking looking at the effect of using acupuncture for trigeminal nerve pain, and most deal with case studies or comparing types of acupuncture treatment methodologies. We will include a couple of studies here for informational purposes and a more recent and promising RCT.
Clinical Discussion on Treating Primary Trigeminal Neuralgia - Randomised Control Study
A study published in the Clinical Journal of Chinese Medicine, found that acupuncture was as effective, if not slightly more so, than the use of Tegretol (Carbamazepine). The 80 participants were randomly assigned to either a Tegretol only control group or a Acupuncture treatment group. This study showed that acupuncture was a promising alternative to pharmaceutics. The researchers reported that acupuncture was more effective than the tegretol control in controlling the symptoms of facial pain.
Acupuncture Treatment for Idiopathic Trigeminal Neuralgia: A Longitudinal Case-control Double Blinded Study.
This is the most recent of all the studies and was published in November 2017 in the Chinese Journal of Integrative Medicine. This seemingly well designed longtitudinal case control study had a total of 90 participants. 60 had idiopathic trigeminal neuralgia and 30 were healthy. The trigeminal groups were assigned to either a acupuncture, sham acupuncture or medication only (Tegretol) group. Pain bench marks were taken before the study, during treatment and 6 months after treatment. The sham acupuncture group reported increases in medical prescriptions. Reductions in secondary myofascial pain and mandibular limitations were also reported in both acupuncture groups, although only the true acupuncture group sustained these after 6 months. Based on this study, researchers concluded that acupuncture is a viable treatment option due to its analgesic effects and it's ability to reduce the secondary myofascial pain on a short term and long term basis.