Trigeminal neuralgia is an acute, sudden and severe facial pain, which manifests as a sharp shooting pain or electric shock like pain in the jaw, teeth or gums. It is thought to be caused by compression of the trigeminal nerve by local blood vessels or as a result of another medical condition such as multiple sclerosis or a tumor.
The pain can last from a few seconds to a few minutes before receeding. These attacks can be regular, occuring daily, weekly or monthly and lasting for long periods of time before going into remission. Patients with severe cases may experience multiple attacks in a single day, and it can have a significant impact on a persons quality of life. It has been linked to weight loss, depression and isolation from others.
It is generally considered to be a rare condition, affecting around 10 in every 100’000 people per year, and is more commen in women than men. Onset usually occurs around the age of 50.
Chinese medicine considers that trigeminal neuralgia would be caused by an external attack on the meridians in the head and face by either Wind-Heat or Wind-Cold, or internally due to Heat affecting the Stomach or Gall Bladder meridians.
Standard treatment for trigeminal neuralgia includes the use of pain killers such as paracetamol for mild cases, and a G.P. may also prescribe carbamazepine, which relieves pain by slowing nerve impulses.
In Traditional Chinese medicine, both acupuncture and herbal medicine would be employed to treat this condition. Acupuncture has been shown by research to be an effective method for the treatment of trigeminal neuralgia, with minimal adverse side effects for patients.
Acupuncture treatment can be done manually or by electroacupuncture. It works to relieve Qi stagnation and Blood stasis, as well as expelling Wind, Cold or Heat from the meridians. Scientific studies also show that acupuncture is effective in stimulating the body’s own pain relief mechanisms.
In addition to acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine can be used to help promote the movement of Qi and Blood, and expel Wind, Cold and Heat, which works to relieve pain in the affected meridians.
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