My primary objective was to observe the clinical effects of acupuncture on treating trigeminal neuralgia (TGN) and to improve my understanding of the mechanisms behind these effects.

I treated a total of six individual cases of trigeminal neuralgia (TGN) from 2012-2013 at Sun Acupuncture located in Hopkins, Minnesota. These six people were diagnosed with (TGN) by a western physician and then sought out acupuncture treatments at Sun Acupuncture. Patients suffering from other disorders such as sinus or ear infections, cluster headaches, etc., were not included in this particular study.

Some of the causes of trigeminal neuralgia (TGN) that I’ve seen in my clinic have been a result of dental work, car accidents or personal injuries involving the neck, long-term stress, etc. The duration of discomfort and pain experienced by these six individual cases ranged from 2 years to 30 years and with an age range from 24-60 years old. Other common accompanying symptoms were daily headaches, jaw pain, jaw clenching, jaw tightness, jaw clicking, difficulty chewing, ear pain, stomach issues including nausea, fatigue due to long-term pain, insomnia, etc.

Many common treatments these patients have tried before seeking my expertise have been: Physical therapy, chiropractic care, pain medications, botox injections, laser therapy, night mouth guards, and surgery. All of these treatments had temporary effect or little to no effect.

I designed and used a precise acupuncture point prescription to treat trigeminal neuralgia (TGN) and the accompanying symptoms and administered the same acupuncture treatment and techniques to each patient. This point prescription and the acupuncture technical skill level are advanced and not easy to learn and administer by a licensed practitioner without the proper training. The acupuncture needles were retained for 25 minutes during each treatment. Treatments were administered 1-2x per week for 3-4 weeks depending on the individual’s availability and response to the treatment. The fewest treatments administered were 3 treatments, while the most was 6 treatments.

Patients were asked to rate their trigeminal neuralgia (TGN) pain and discomfort level before each treatment by using the General Pain Index, which rates pain severity on a 1-10 scale with a rating of 1 = no pain or discomfort and a rating of 10 = the highest level of pain and discomfort possible. The differences between the beginning and finished scores were evaluated.

All of the included patients experienced trigeminal neuralgia (TGN) pain on a daily basis. Severity of pain for all patients was on the high side. On the General Pain Index, the average was (8.75). At the end, the average score was (1.58). This definitely shows that acupuncture has good therapeutic effectiveness at treating (TGN) in a clinical setting. All patients were satisfied with the results, which met their lifestyle comfort level. Some of the remaining symptoms included jaw clenching due to stress, occasional headaches, minor residual tingling or nerve pain, tooth and gum sensitivity, jaw fatigue, jaw clicking, etc.

My conclusion is that acupuncture treatments can effectively relieve trigeminal neuralgia (TGN) pain, that it carries low risk, is minimally invasive, cost effective, is an excellent alternative to the current standard methods of treatment, and should be considered a frontline treatment for (TGN).

Brian Grosam PhD., TCMD, LAc.