Case Example of Trigeminal Neuralgia

Acupuncture has been recognized by the National Institute of Health to be effective as a stand-alone or adjunctive treatment modality for patients with various types of pain.  One of the worst types of pain involves the head, jaw, and face.

Michelle Thelen, L.Ac. MSTCM worked for six years with UNC Dental Faculty Practice where she provided acupuncture for patients suffering acute or chronic orofacial pain. 

how does acupuncture help relieve trigeminal neuralgia

TN is a neuropathic type of pain that can become chronic and recalcitrant to standard drug treatments.  Acupuncture can be a very useful tool to control and reduce pain levels, and may also help with remission, thereby giving the patient real hope for recovery.  

One patient seen recently by Michelle presented with severe right-sided maxillary pain (upper teeth) and buccal pain (cheek) that was unremitting.  The patient was in agony, not able to sleep at night, chew solid foods, or work during the day.  She described the pain as distending, with frequent episodes of sharp and burning pain.  Of note, the patient had tried an oral splint, and several medications including anti-inflammatories and pain medication, which provided only short-term relief.  After two acupuncture treatments, the pain level was reduced from 10/10 to 2/10. This patient still returns for repeat treatments when her pain flares up and is now a devotee of acupuncture for this problem.

Head and neck pain are often related. Acupuncture points must be carefully selected according to particular signs and symptoms. This usually means local points on the head and neck are combined with distal points, as found on the abdomen, legs, and arms.  Selecting the correct set of points ensures that the whole person is treated, not just one body part.  Acupuncture works by realigning meridians to allow a free flow of lymph, blood, and oxygen to those areas that are temporarily congested or blocked.