Alternative treatments for trigeminal neuralgia are similar to those for occipital neuralgia, although there are some differences as the pain of trigeminal neuralgia is in the face rather than the back of the head. Some of these treatments include:
1. Vitamin B12 supplementation. This vitamin helps promote healthy nerve function. This is particularly important if you are vegetarian or vegan as you may have less of the vitamin in your system than you need.
2. Omega 3. Fish oils or flaxseed oil, olive oil or nut oils may help strengthen your nerves and ease inflammation.
3. See a nutritionist or doctor who specializes in treating patients with high amounts of nutritional supplements. Dr. Russell Blaylock is a neurosurgeon who worked with Dr. Peter Janetta during his early research on vascular compression of the cranial nerves as a cause for trigeminal neuralgia. Blaylock was also one of the first neurosurgeons to successfully use high dose nutritional supplementation for head trauma patients.
4. Homeopathy has been known to help some patients, including the author of this article, who has another form, occipital neuralgia. Remedies are tailored to the person’s overall constitution and symptoms rather than to specific conditions so it is better to see a qualified homeopath who will take a medical history, rather than read suggestions for remedies.
5. Acupuncture may help. A study at Tsurumi University School of Dental Medicine found that five out of 10 trigeminal neuralgia patients were restored to a pain-free state, four had a reduction in pain and the remaining one still had severe pain. They concluded: "meridian acupuncture treatment is useful and can be one therapeutic approach in the management of trigeminal neuralgia."
6. St. John’s wort. It is a herb that has been used for hundreds of years to treat depression and nerve pain. If you are on anti-depressants, heart medication, anti-epileptics, anti-coagulants, anti-rejection drugs, HIV medication or the contraceptive pill, it may interact with these and is not suitable for use in these cases. It is not suitable for use in pregnant or breast feeding mothers.
7. According to facial-neuralgia.org, stress can trigger an attack of trigeminal neuralgia so it is important to try and stay calm and reduce stress. Take a relaxing bath, have a massage, go to bed early and try not to have an over-hectic schedule. If you are feeling distressed due to your neuralgia, talk to your friends and family. Sharing how you feel might help to reduce your stress levels.
8. A TENS machine might help, depending on the exact type of neuralgia you have. Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation is when small amounts of electricity are sent through the skin to block pain signals. They also encourage the production of endorphins, the body’s own natural painkiller. Results are varied; some find the pain relief very effective and others don’t. If you are thinking of using one, ask your doctor where to position the electrodes as putting them in the wrong place can be harmful.
9. Try chiropractic adjustments. According to a case report: "Trigeminal neuralgia, sometimes called tic dolorous, is characterized by episodes of electric shock-like pain in areas of the face where branches of the trigeminal nerve are distributed. Medical treatment includes pharmaceuticals, analgesics, surgery, radiosurgery, low-powered laser, TENS, acupuncture and biofeedback. Manipulative approaches have been used successfully in a medical center in China, and reports of successful treatment with chiropractic techniques have been published." The report went on to say that the patient had a history of right-sided facial pain, diagnosed as trigeminal neuralgia, over a 6-year period with remissions after dental or medical treatment and exacerbations, the most recent lasting two months. Prior to cranial and other chiropractic adjustments, the patient had continuous pain that she rated at 9.5 on the visual analogue scale, and after four consultations over an 11-day period, pain had reduced to 0.5. The authors concluded that "Spinal and cranial adjusting potentially affects a wide range of causes of trigeminal neuralgia and offers a conservative, low-cost, low technology initial approach which, if ineffective, will not greatly delay or inhibit other treatment. Occasional maintenance care may be required in some instances to reduce recurrences."
10. If you have had surgical decompression, further attacks of trigeminal neuralgia may occur due to scar tissue. Osteopathic manipulation has been shown to correct this problem. It could also help if you haven’t had surgery.
Encyclopaedia of Alternative Medicine, April 6, 2001 edition.
Chiropr J Aust Mar 2005; 35(1): 9-15 - http://chiropractors.asn.au/Content/NavigationMenu/Publications/CJA/CJA_Back_Issues/Volume35/Vol35Issue1/default.htm
National Institutes of Health, National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine - http://nccam.nih.gov/health/stjohnswort/ataglance.htm#uses
Anesth Pain Control Dent. 1992 Spring;1(2):103-8 - http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1392684
Joanna is a freelance health writer for The Mother magazine and Suite 101 with a column on infertility, http://infertility.suite101.com/. She is author of the book, 'Breast Milk: A Natural Immunisation,' and co-author of an educational resource on disabled parenting, in addition to running a charity for people damaged by vaccines or medical mistakes.