Trigeminal Neuralgia (TN) is described as one of the most severe pains known to man. It is a disorder of the trigeminal nerve that produces sudden, excruciating bouts of facial pain. This pain typically strikes where the nerve branches to the nose, lips, eyes, ears, scalp, forehead, upper and lower jaw, and even the tongue. TN most often affects only one side of the face, and, over time, the pain usually increases in severity and frequency. In some patients, the pain is so severe that sudden attacks can bring the patient to their knees. It is a debilitating condition that is disruptive to every aspect of one’s life.
Research shows that TN is caused by irritation or damage to the trigeminal nerve and the central trigeminal system in the upper spinal cord and brain stem. Medical reports also suggest that trauma to the head, neck, and upper back can injure the nerve pathways in the spinal cord and brain stem and cause TN. The facial pain can begin immediately after the injury, or in some cases, takes months or years to develop.
Some of the symptoms that can be found in a patient suffering from Trigeminal Neuralgia are:
- Extreme episodes of shooting and jabbing pain similar to electric shocks
- Spasms of pain which can last from seconds to minutes
- Random spasms of mild pain
- Pain in the areas where trigeminal nerve and its branches can reach such as gum, teeth, jaw forehead
- Sudden episodes of pain which can be activated by chewing, talking or touching the face
- Pain on one side or both sides of the face
- Episodes of pain that occur frequently and intensely
- Pains can be focused on one spot or spread in a wider pattern
- Numbness in the face before the pain starts
Chiropractic can help trigeminal neuralgia symptoms by correcting the misalignments of the spine caused by trauma, and removing compression of the brain stem and surrounding nerves. After nerve irritation has been removed, proper communication is restored between the brain and spinal cord, and the surrounding nerves.
Treatment may include;
- Manual therapy consisting of soft-tissue therapy
- Joint mobilisation/manipulation to the cervical spine
- Joint mobilisation/manipulation of the TMJ region
- Cervical spine lateral flexion exercises at home
- Joint mobilisation/manipulation to the thoracic spine