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What is trigeminal neuralgia (TN)?


          Are you feeling a sudden, sharp, or shooting pain in various points of your face, such as cheeks or jaws? Does the pain feel intense but disappear after about two minutes? You may be experiencing trigeminal neuralgia (TN).

          TN is a health condition that causes facial pain. However, the pain usually affects only one of the two trigeminal nerves, which split from the top of the ear into three directions, including the eye, cheek, and jaw (Trigeminal neuralgia, 2021).

What are the symptoms of TN? 

          An individual may experience two different types of pain. The first is “classic,” known as TN1, and the second is “atypical,” known as TN2. TN1 is described as sudden extreme burning or shock-like facial pain that happens sporadically, ranging from a few seconds to two minutes. Whereas TN2 causes constant aching, burning, or stabbing pain with less intensity than TN1, both can be physically and mentally incapacitating.

The symptoms are often triggered by contact with the cheeks, such as washing the face, applying makeup, eating, talking, or being exposed to the wind. The symptoms may stop for some time but usually return and intensify, causing individuals to feel debilitated (Trigeminal neuralgia fact sheet, 2013).

How does TN happen? 


          TN is usually due to pressure on the trigeminal nerves caused by compression of the artery nerve or vein at a sensitive point. Although, it is still unclear why some individuals with a compressed trigeminal nerve do or don’t experience pain. TN can also be secondary to medical conditions such as a tumor, cyst, multiple sclerosis, facial injury, or arteriovenous malformation (NHS, 2019).

What are the causes of TN in Oriental Medicine? 


          In Oriental medicine, pain in the face is caused by pathogenic fire as all the Yang meridians meet on the face. Moreover, the pain in the face is also related to stomach function (Han, 2007), which means that the cause is a blockage in the stomach meridian, which extends to areas of the face such as the trigeminal nerve. The blockage may be due to the invasion of hot or cold wind that affects the flow of Qi in the face and head (Tan, Q., & Cai, X., 2022).

What can Oriental medicine do to treat TN?

          Acupuncture: Some individuals who seek relief from TN report that acupuncture helps reduce the intensity and frequency of flare-ups (Trigeminal neuralgia, 2021). Furthermore, acupuncture relieves pain and can induce an analgesic effect after multiple therapeutic sessions (Lavaee, Rafiee, F., Tabassom, Z., & Ranjbar, Z., 2021). In addition, acupuncture can help repair damaged nerves and improve communication throughout the nervous system (Tan, Q., & Cai, X., 2022).

          Acupressure: The stagnation of Qi increases pain. Therefore, it is crucial to move Qi to relieve the pain. Acupressure is a gentle technique that assists significantly in the movement of Qi. Being gentle is of utmost priority because TN is so painful and sensitive. Two meridians may help reduce symptoms of TN. The first one is San Jiao Meridian (wraps around the ear and travels to the eyebrow), and the second one is the Gallbladder Meridian (travels close to the eye and ear and crosses the sides of the head) (Black, C., 2016).

          Traditional Chinese Herbs: Herbal medicine is used to treat and relieve various symptoms of pain and discomfort. It may also help with the rejuvenation of nerve cells (Tan, Q., & Cai, X., 2022). For TN, herbal medicine is a valuable agent for treating neuralgia and has fewer side effects than conventional anticonvulsants or invasive techniques (Kogure, Sato, H., Kishi, D., & Tatsumi, T., 2008).


          Moxibustion: Although TN is commonly caused by pathogenic fire-heat, it may be treated by moxibustion combined with acupoints such as Xiaguan (ST 7 ), Sanjian (LI 3), Xiangu (ST 43) and Zulinqi (GB 41), Sanyinjiao (SP 6) and Taixi (KI 3). These acupoints nourish Yin to reduce fire and promote blood circulation to decrease pain. In addition, Moxibustion with warming needles will dissipate fire stagnation and activate collaterals to cause unobstruction stopping pain. Moxibustion can also expel wind and clear away heat for the pain of the face induced by the wind-cold attack” (Han, 2007).

          Cupping: Cupping technique is widely used in Oriental medicine to ease pain and release muscle tension. It has shown positive effects in cancer and TN patients compared to anticancer drugs and analgesics (Kim, Lee, M. S., Lee, D.-H., Boddy, K., & Ernst, E., 2011).

          Exercise: Some individuals manage TN with low-impact exercises such as yoga (Trigeminal neuralgia fact sheet, 2013). Yoga poses include Trikonasana (triangle pose) enhances blood circulation; Vyaghrasana (tiger pose) balances the chemical and physical process of the cerebral hemispheres; and the Padmasana and Natarajasana, which both enhance and balance the nervous system (Chauhan, D. M., 2021).

          If you or someone you love is dealing with TN, the quality of life is significantly reduced due to the extreme symptoms of facial pain. Rapha Acupuncture can help you design a customized treatment plan for trigeminal neuralgia! Our 25-year-experienced TCM doctor will find the right combination of acupuncture, traditional Chinese herbs, and cupping to assist in treating your symptoms of pain and discomfort caused by TN. To schedule a consultation, call (949) 767-0774 or schedule online here. The doctors at Rapha Acupuncture in Newport Beach will help you achieve a holistic balance without side effects! Give us a call today!

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Black, C. (2016). Trigeminal neuralgia, the meridian massage approach. Big Tree School of Natural Healing. 

Chauhan, D. M. (2021). Yoga exercises tips for trigeminal neuralgia. Planet Ayurveda. 

Han, Zc. (2007). Treatment of 32 cases of primary trigeminal neuralgia by acupuncture plus moxibustion with warming needle on Xiaguan (ST 7). Journal of Acupuncture and Tuina Science 5(4), 255–256. 

Kim, Lee, M. S., Lee, D.-H., Boddy, K., & Ernst, E. (2011). Cupping for treating pain: A systematic review. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 467014–467017.  

Kogure, Sato, H., Kishi, D., & Tatsumi, T. (2008). The effect of traditional herbal medicines; Uyakujunkisan on trigeminal neuralgia in an elderly patient - A case report and literature review. Pain Practice, 8(5), 408–411.  

Lavaee, Rafiee, F., Tabassom, Z., & Ranjbar, Z. (2021). Evaluation of the effect of acupuncture on pain of patients with refractory trigeminal neuralgia. Journal of Acupuncture and Tuina Science, 19(6), 444–448. 

NHS. (2019). Causes trigeminal neuralgia. NHS choices.  

Tan, Q., & Cai, X. (2022). How to treat trigeminal neuralgia with acupuncture and tcm. Art of Wellness Acupuncture & Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).  

Johns Hopkins Medicine. (2021). Trigeminal neuralgia.  

National Institute of Health (NIH). National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. (2013). Trigeminal neuralgia fact sheet. 

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