About Trigeminal Neuralgia
Trigeminal Neuralgia is a very painful nerve condition affecting the face. Symptoms are excruciating electrical pain on either side of the face on one or multiple branches of the trigeminal nerve. It is a condition that usually affects people over the age of 60 and is more prevalent in women.
Western Medicine View
Trigeminal Neuralgia is surprisingly not formally understood by Western Medicine. Many theories have been developed, 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 leading to an inappropriate response to normal stimulation such as eating, talking or touching. Western treatment is usually limited to medication management and if the symptoms become unmanageable, a surgical procedure is usually recommended by doctors. Tegretol is usually the first medicine prescribed but this has a bad side effect profile so it is advisable to request other medication for example Trileptal or Gabapentin. Surgical procedures include Microvascular Decompression (a serious operation to sepaarate the nerve from any blood vessels and cover the nerve with a material), Gamma Knife (damaging and desensitising 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 but the Microvascular Decompression surgery has the highest success rate (but carries the highest risk).
The trigeminal nerve does not end in the ganglion but continues into the brain stem. The brain stem is surrounded by the atlas bone. If the atlas bone is not in alignment it can impinge on the brain stem causing either damage to the trigeminal nerve or causing the nerve signals to become confused by the brain so that it registers pain when there is nothing harmful happening. There are studies that strongly suggest that alignment of the atlas bone is one of the most effective treatments for trigeminal neuralgia. This alignment can be done by a NUCCA practitioner or Atlas Orthogonal (although NUCCA has had more studies conducted on the ability to treat trigemninal neuralgia). This process can take up to 3 weeks for the symptoms to resolve and requires regular appointments to ensure that alignment is holding. It is however a natural method that many people have used for this condition and has no negative side effects.
Chilli has an active ingredient called capsaicin that has been shown to have a powerful desensitising effect on the nerve if applied correctly. Capsaicin has an ability to reduce the sensitivity of unmyelinated nociceptor nerves (those that trigger pain signals) and some patients use capsaicin to treat trigeminal neuralgia. Capsaicin cream can be prescribed by the doctor but this is in a very low concentration of about 0.75%. Using higher strength capsaicin (about 10%) applied to the sensitive trigger points on the face and inside the mouth for a period of half an hour every day for five days may lead to a desensitisation of the nerve. Please be careful as this level of capsaicin is extremely strong.
This is only a brief article about Trigeminal Neuralgia and treatment options. Many people claim to have been treated successfully using other therapies such as homoepathy, craniosacral therapy and supplements (vitamin B in the form of methylcobalamine especially). It is crucial that anybody suffering from this condition keep a detailed diary in order to properly assess the effectiveness of treatment and triggers to avoid. The nature of this condition is erratic with some days much easier than others so it can be difficult to understand what is working and what is not. It is the opinion of this author that all natural approaches to this condition (with a minimum quantity of pharmaceutical medicine to manage symptoms) should be explored as a priority.
Chinese Medicine View
Chinese Medicine views trigeminal neuralgia usually as an invasion of wind pathogens to the face leading to nerve inflammation and stasis. Every person is slightly different but usually Chinese Medicine uses Acupuncture to calm the nerves and reduce pain whilst using Chinese Herbs to clear the underlying syndrome causing the nerve to become damaged. There have been many studies of using Chinese Medicine to treat this condition with some success.
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