Anyone who has ever suffered from trigeminal neuralgia can confirm that it is the most excruciating feeling of pain known to man. The American Association of Neurological Surgeons gives more credence to that statement as it describes the condition as an intense, stabbing pain in certain parts of the face caused by irritation of the trigeminal nerve. Thanks to advancement in medicine and extensive research in understanding the root cause of the problem, people affected by this chronic pain condition can gain partial or complete relief through various treatments.
Partly based on findings by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), here are the three most common methods for trigeminal nerve pain relief.
While medicinal treatment is the most common treatment, severe cases may sometimes require surgery or a combinational approach where both drugs and surgery help the affected person.
Anticonvulsant medicines are the most common type used to block nerve firing, which also alleviates or stops the pain signals from reaching the brain. According to NINDS, this is more effective for type 1 pain (TF1) where the affected person experiences intermittent bouts of shock-like pain. The main component of anticonvulsants is carbamazepine which is known to help with pain relief.
If the pain persists or the affected person complains of any common side-effects (like drowsiness or nausea), the medication is ideally stopped. The person is then prescribed tricyclic antidepressants.
Another relatively new and promising treatment for trigeminal neuralgia pain relief is the use of therapeutic patches where acoustic ultrasound waves travel from a small device through the facial tissue and expedite the healing of the damaged nerve. Since obstruction or pressure on the trigeminal nerve (also known as 5th cranial nerve) by intracranial artery or a venous loop is the usual cause for TF1, such patches can have a replenishing effect on the nerve. The affected person can therefore avoid surgery and decrease the intake of medications.
PainShield therapy by NanoVibronix is the leading provider of this method. It is known for its ease of application, absence of side effects, faster healing time, and effective long-term pain relief. This is the safest method for trigeminal nerve pain relief as it does not add anything into the body.
The third most common technique is to surgically operate the injured nerve. Rhizotomy or rhizolysis is a type of neurosurgical procedure which involves voluntary impairment of nerve fibers. This is done to block the communication between the nerve and the brain.
On the other hand, neurectomy – incision of nerve fiber – is carried out for severe cases when the nerve has turned resistant to treatment.
It should be noted that surgical treatments often comes with side effects such as hearing loss, partial numbness on the face, and anesthesia dolorosa (pain in the absence of sensation on touch). Some of these issues can be permanent.
Since the condition affects the trigeminal nerve, it is a progressive disorder and one that requires medical assistance. It is up to the type of trigeminal neuralgia, its pain level, and affected person’s body type and health condition that should dictate the chosen treatment type.
Nevertheless, ultrasound therapy and medicine intake are the safest methods for both quick and long-term pain relief.