Trigeminal Neuralgia

Trigeminal Neuralgia (TGN) Treatments with Acupuncture in Atlanta

Trigeminal neuralgia (TGN) is a unilateral electric shock or knife-like pain occurring in one or more branches of the trigeminal nerve that affects four to five people in 100,000.

The facial pain usually starts near one side of the mouth, then shoots toward the ear, eye, or nostril on the same side of face. The pain episodes may be on and off, or even months in between the pain. As the disorder progresses, the pain episodes may become more frequent, with less and shorter remission periods. A dull ache will then remain between the episodes of stabbing pain. Pain may be triggered by touch, movement, eating, or even air drafts, which increases the discomfort of those suffering from this disorder.

This condition may occur to anyone, but it more commonly affects middle-aged people or elderly. It is also possible to affect younger people with history of multiple sclerosis. Women seem to have a higher ratio comparing to men.

Trigeminal neuralgia

Western Medicine Treatment of TGN

TGN is not well understood by Western Medicine. Many theories have been developed on the causes of the disease. The most widely used theory is that the nerve is being impinged by a blood vessel causing the protective layer of the nerve to be damaged, which then leads to an inappropriate response to normal stimulation such as eating, talking or touching.

Western treatment is usually limited to medication management with pharmaceuticals. If the symptoms become unmanageable, an invasive surgical procedure is usually recommended by doctors. Some commonly prescribed drugs for TGN are Tegretol, Trileptal or Gabapentin; however, some of these drugs have a reputation of creating many negative side effects. Surgical procedures include Microvascular Decompression (a serious operation to separate the nerve from any blood vessels and cover the nerve with a material), Gamma Knife (damaging and desensitizing the nerve using beams of radiation) and other temporary techniques to damage the nerve. These surgical procedures have varying success and recurrence rates and all carry risk. The Microvascular Decompression surgery has the highest success rate, yet also carries the highest risk.

How Chinese Medicine (CM) Views TGN

According to CM, this condition is most commonly caused by an attack of exterior pathogenic factors, especially of Wind and Heat, which block and obstruct the free flow of Qi (energy) and blood circulation within the body channels. (Read about Chinese Medicine’s view of causes of illness here). Alternatively, it may be arise from internal reasons such as excessive emotional stress or the imbalance of the state of Yin and Yang, which in result, block the body channels as well.

Treatment of TGN with Chinese Medicine

Acupuncture treatments have shown incredible results when used in the treatment of TGN. The pain of trigeminal neuralgia has been shown to respond extremely well to treatments. The acupuncture is directed at invigorating qi and blood and transforming stasis (this is the treatment principle according to CM’s traditional understanding of TGN pathomechanism) through the channels in the affected area and also re-balancing the entire body based on your individual constitution, symptoms, history and needs. If the efficacy of acupuncture is not apparent by itself, herbal therapy is often combined to enhance the desired outcome of treatment and speed the healing process. Herbal medicine allows continued treatment between acupuncture appointments, and certain Chinese herbs have been shown to stop even the strongest of pain.

Discussion of your particular symptoms is a key piece in creating an accurate treatment plan. Here at Buckhead Acupuncture Clinic in Atlanta, we are big fans of nitty gritty details that help us get to the root of whatever you are experiencing in a highly individualized, patient-centered way. We’ll also talk about things such as when your symptoms started, what makes your pain better or worse, and about your general health.

By combining the information gleaned from our discussion with Chinese medicine diagnostic methods, a treatment plan is created based on what acupuncturists call a pattern differentiation. Acupuncture and herbal medicine are used to correct the pattern of disharmony to restore the normal balance to the body. Re-achieving balance is what relieves pain and other symptoms.

It is important to remember that pain that has been around a long time doesn’t disappear in one treatment, so patience is key. Additionally, the pain-stopping effects of acupuncture work cumulatively, so the successive treatments will provide more and longer lasting pain relief. For pain problems like trigeminal neuralgia, we generally recommend weekly or bi-weekly appointments for six to eight weeks, and re-evaluation after the initial series, but the time between treatments may be stretched out to fit your particular financial needs and schedule.

To learn more about how we can help you with your TGN, set up a consultation with one of our experienced Atlanta acupuncturists today!

Here are some articles about treating trigeminal neuralgia with Chinese Medicine:

Acupuncture Today


National Institute of Health