New Insights Into Trigeminal Neuralgia

Researchers in Denmark are providing new insights into the painful condition known as trigeminal neuralgia (TN).

Have you ever had a stabbing pain on one side of your face – almost like an electric shock? Maybe it just happens, or maybe it seems to come when you’re brushing your teeth, or even putting on makeup.

Trigeminal neuralgia is not a common disease, and so it hasn’t been studied nearly as much as many other pain disorders. But this study of 158 patients gives us a clearer picture.

  1. TN seems to strike later in life than conditions like migraine. The average age when symptoms appeared was about 53 years.
  2. Although both men and women get TN, it is somewhat more likely to affect women.
  3. Almost 50% of patients had persistent pain in addition to the stabbing pain. Sometime TN with persistent pain has been called “atypical”, but it doesn’t seem to be as atypical as some think (the more proper name, by the way, is classical trigeminal neuralgia with concomitant persistent facial pain. Has a ring to it, wouldn’t you say?).
  4. The pain is more often on the right side.
  5. A little less than a third had “autonomic symptoms”, such as dizziness, and a little less than a third had “sensory abnormalities”, even if they hadn’t had surgery.

Researchers also investigated the nerve that TN affects. TN can affect different branches of the trigeminal nerve in the face. They discovered that the first branch alone was rarely the problem. Usually the culprits were the second and/or third branches.

TN is usually treated with medications such as anticonvulsants and muscle relaxants. Botox has also been used successfully for TN, and in much smaller doses than are used for migraine.

In rare cases, surgery is recommended. However, surgery is not always a guarantee that the pain is gone for good.

A clinical trial is beginning in the USA also, in Philadelphia, to investigate the use of Botox for TN. If you would like to be a part of the study, you can find more information by clicking the last link below.

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2 comments… add one
  • Jami Jan 13, 2015


    I am a 22-year old female who has been suffering from chronic head pain for about the last year. I was told that I could have trigeminal neuralgia or nerve damage in my head when going to the ER one night for the intense pain and when scheduling visits to a few neurologists. About once a month I suffer from sharp, stabbing pains on the top left side of my head that will come about every 5-10 seconds and repeatedly affect me throughout the day for anywhere from a few minutes to multiple hours. The pain will last anywhere from a few days to more than a week. It’s extremely debilitating. Along with the stabbing pains, I usually experience a crawling sensation, tingling, and numbness on the left side of my face/head. This is sometimes accompanied by a burning sensation inside/around my left ear that feels as if my ear is on fire and heating up. The cold weather and icing my head often eases the pain. Taking two alleve has helped to alleviate the pain on a few occasions. I got an MRI and went to a few neurologists, but they all said everything was fine. They tried prescribing me a few different anticonvulsants, but they didn’t seem to help with the pain. Do you think that I have trigeminal neuralgia or perhaps something else? If so, can you suggest some at home remedies for me or medications to go on? Thanks!

  • Jazzy Jan 22, 2015

    Jami, does your teeth bother you too, that happened to me and it was from shingles virus it is very hard to be diagnosed, it took me a few years. I thought I had a brain tumor, then I had caps removed, then ears, nose, and throat doctor for sinus, and finally a neurologist determined Trigeminal neuralgia. Good luck I go for osteopathic cranial massages and use heat on my face along with pain pills. I didn’t like any of the anti-convulsion drugs and I am trying Herbal medication.

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