How to Relieve Pain from Trigeminal Neuralgia
It used to be difficult for doctors to diagnose and treat trigeminal neuralgia. Thankfully, advances in research and clinical knowledge have led to a better understanding of the condition. What does that mean for you? There are experienced doctors available in the tristate area to help relieve your pain from trigeminal neuralgia. You don’t have to continue to live with the pain.
About Trigeminal Neuralgia
First, before discussing what to do about your trigeminal neuralgia, it can be helpful to understand its cause. The trigeminal nerve transmits signals about sensation and pain from the face to the brain. However, sometimes there is something that presses on the trigeminal nerve, causing it to misfire and send signals of pain without an appropriate stimulus. The culprit is most often a small blood vessel next to the brain stem, but it can also be something like a tumor and, rarely, an unknown cause.
As a result of this hyperactivity and inappropriate signaling, patients with trigeminal neuralgia experience excruciating pain with normal activities, like eating, along with a constant dull pain. It’s this pain that characterizes trigeminal neuralgia, and it can often be debilitating and interfere with daily activities. The next section is designed to help you learn how to relieve your pain from trigeminal neuralgia, including the first steps you need to take.
The First Steps
You’ve already taken the first step – you are learning more about your condition and are playing an active role in resolving your pain. Next, it’s important you find a doctor in northern NJ who is experienced in the diagnosis and management of trigeminal neuralgia. Because trigeminal neuralgia is a complicated neurological condition, you will want to entrust your case to someone with the knowledge and ability to recommend the most appropriate treatment option for your individual situation.
Generally speaking, there are three treatment options used to manage trigeminal neuralgia: medications, microvascular decompression surgery, and Gamma Knife radiosurgery.
The first step in treatment will almost always be medications aimed at preventing painful attacks. They do not work by stopping the pain directly, but instead by stopping the hyperactive nerve activity. Common medications include anti-seizure medications, a tricyclic antidepressant, and muscle relaxers. However, these will not work for all patients and only often work for a period of time before they are no longer effective, necessitating further intervention.
Microvascular Decompression Surgery
Recall that the cause of trigeminal neuralgia is often a blood vessel that is impinging on the trigeminal nerve. During microvascular decompression surgery, the neurosurgeon creates an incision and removes a small section of bone to provide access to the site, then places a small piece of Teflon between the nerve and vessel to relieve the friction. The procedure does involve a hospital stay of a few days and usually a week or so recovering at home while on work and activity restrictions.
Gamma Knife Radiosurgery
A great treatment option for many trigeminal neuralgia patients is Gamma Knife radiosurgery, a specialized form of radiation therapy that provides a relatively minimally invasive alternative to surgery. Using multiple beams of highly focused radiation, your surgeon can target the blood vessels impinging on the nerve without creating a single incision. Gamma Knife radiosurgery is performed in an outpatient setting, which means there is no hospital stay, and most patients are able to return to work and activities within a day or two.
Gamma Knife radiosurgery is an effective way to relieve pain from trigeminal neuralgia with less risk than surgery and a shorter recovery period. As you are discussing treatment plan options with your doctor, be sure to mention you would like to learn more about Gamma Knife radiosurgery if that is a treatment option you are interested in.
Following your trigeminal neuralgia treatment, you can expect to have follow-up visits with your doctor to monitor the resolution of your symptoms. Some patients may experience a return of symptoms after a period of time, so it is important to adhere to your follow-up schedule so your doctor can catch any symptoms as soon as possible.
You may also wish to take time to find other patients who have been diagnosed with trigeminal neuralgia, such as a support group. This could be in person with other people in NJ, or it could be an online community of patients around the world. Having somewhere to engage with other people who have shared similar experiences can help you through the process, and you may even help other people along the way. Using the community to heal is a powerful component in treating your trigeminal neuralgia, both before and following treatment.
You Can Find Relief for Trigeminal Neuralgia
Whether you have already been diagnosed or are just starting down the path of learning about trigeminal neuralgia, it is important to remember that there are more effective treatment options than ever before. You’ve no doubt asked yourself (and possibly others) how to relieve pain from trigeminal neuralgia. It’s great that you are taking the time to educate yourself, but it’s important that you now find an expert to help you manage your care. Trigeminal neuralgia is complicated, but it is treatable. The pain does not have to be a constant part of your life, and there are doctors available in the tristate area to help you find relief.
“The whole procedure took less than an hour. I wasn’t even nervous.” - Mary Hamilton