Alternative and Complementary Treatment Options for Trigeminal Neuralgia


What is trigeminal neuralgia?

Trigeminal neuralgia is a neuropathic pain condition that develops when damage occurs to a trigeminal nerve. The trigeminal nerves are the main nerves on each side of the face. They are responsible for carrying the sensations of pain and touch to the brain from different areas of the face including, but not limited to, the mouth, nose and cheeks. When trigeminal neuralgia is present, even a mild sensation (washing the face, eating a snack, or a slight breeze touching the face, etc.) can cause intense pain. Individuals with trigeminal neuralgia often describe the pain as electric shock sensations. The condition is chronic, and the intensity and frequency of pain typically increase over time.

Alternative and complementary treatment options

In addition to conventional treatments for trigeminal neuralgia, alternative and complementary treatment methods are also options to help ease the pain. These methods are often used in conjunction with medication therapy and include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Acupuncture is a form of traditional Chinese medicine in which small needles are strategically placed on the body to increase levels of endorphins, enkephalin and serotonin in order to decrease pain levels. Acupuncture is generally safe and adverse side effects are rare.
  • Herbal products, such as peppermint oil and lavender, may be helpful in dealing with pain associated with trigeminal neuralgia. Although herbal therapy is promising, there are not enough proper studies on the therapeutic effect. A health care professional should be consulted before beginning any herbal therapy as certain herbs can negatively interact with various over-the-counter and prescription medications.
  • Biofeedback is a self-regulatory therapy that increases physiological response awareness to enable changes needed to improve health, both physically and mentally. Sensors are typically placed on the body to view physiological data and determine any changes needed.
  • Chiropractic manipulation can increase blood flow, relieve tension and reduce stress.
  • Nutrition therapy involves identifying foods that promote inflammation and replacing them with foods that contain anti-inflammatory agents.
  • Meditation helps clear the mind to reduce stress. Consistent practice of meditation can improve mood and provide an overall sense of well-being and inner peace.
  • Yoga is a meditative movement practice that can reduce stress, increase relaxation and improve health. Yoga also increases flexibility and strength.
  • Guided imagery is a mind-body therapy based on the principle that the mind and body are inherently connected. It is used to achieve a focused and relaxed state. Guided imagery uses all the senses to redirect thoughts away from pain.
  • Aromatherapy can soothe the mind and body. It can reduce pain sensations as aromas penetrate a network of nerves in the brain that control emotions.
  • Physical activity increases serotonin levels in the brain, which can reduce pain sensations. A health care professional should be consulted before beginning any new exercise regimen.
  • Supportive counseling or therapy is a form of psychotherapy that can reduce negative thinking.
  • Vitamins such as fish oil contain anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce inflammation associated with pain.

A health care professional should be consulted prior to any alternative or complementary treatments as they may interact with other current treatments or medications.

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