Trigeminal Neuralgia – A Neck Problem in Disguise
Trigeminal Neuralgia is a sharp facial pain that is recognized as one of the most painful conditions known to humankind. The pain follows the branches of the trigeminal nerve:
- The ophthalmic branch (forehead)
- The maxillary branch (upper palate)
- The mandibular branch (lower palate and TMJ).
Broadly speaking, there are two causes of trigeminal neuralgia:
- Nerve/brainstem compression
- Functional nerve disorder
With nerve/brainstem compression, this is where something is physically pressing against the branches of the trigeminal nerve itself, or the processing centers in the brain. This can be caused by a blood vessel, lesion (e.g., tumor) or infection. For these cases, the cause of trigeminal neuralgia can be seen clearly on an MRI scan. Treatment usually involves microvascular decompression (which has a 90% success rate) or other surgery such as a gamma knife laser.
However, there are many people who experience trigeminal neuralgia who do not have any demonstrable lesions on their MRI scans. Their reports come back saying that “everything looks normal.” For these cases, the cause of trigeminal neuralgia is a functional nerve disorder. This means that something else is producing the pain associated with trigeminal neuralgia. It is not the nerve itself.
For these cases, the problem can often be found with a problem in your upper neck.
How can the neck cause Trigeminal Neuralgia?
The center of your brainstem that processes sensory information from your head, face and neck is known as the spinal trigeminal nucleus.
The important point here is that this part of your brain processes information from both the trigeminal nerve as well as the nerves in your neck.
There is a phenomenon that can occur in the brain known as spillover. Think of it like wires getting criss-crossed. What it means is that your brain can misinterpret signals from one place in your body, and make it feel like you have pain when the problem is actually coming from somewhere else.
The C1 and C2 nerves in your neck are unique. They are the only nerves that are not encased by bone where they exit your spine. This means that mechanical pressures in the upper neck (e.g., whiplash, degenerative arthritis or craniocervical instability) can irritate these nerves and produce pain. The result can be a wide variety of craniofacial pain syndromes:
- Tension Headaches
- Cluster Headaches
- Sinus Headaches
- Occipital Neuralgia
- Glossopharyngeal Neuralgia (aka Burning Mouth Syndrome)
- … and of course, Trigeminal Neuralgia
A Different Approach for Trigeminal Neuralgia
James Tomasi, the author of What Time Tuesday?, tells his own journey of dealing with the pain of trigeminal neuralgia. After dealing with the unrelenting pain for 14 years, he was resigned to take his own life. That is, until he experienced relief from a unique form of healthcare known as upper cervical chiropractic care.
Although James had been to many chiropractors in the past, he had not been to an upper cervical chiropractor. Upper cervical is a specialist practice that uses a series of advanced diagnostic scans to identify specific misalignment of the upper vertebrae in the neck, and how these vertebrae can create problems with the function of the nervous system. Although James’ recovery took time, he experienced just enough of a change within the first few hours of his first adjustment that he decided against ending his life.
Until the time of his passing, James was a major advocate for upper cervical chiropractic care and helping people suffering trigeminal neuralgia to find the relief they desire most.
Upper Cervical Chiropractic in Spokane, Washington
The Blair technique is a division of upper cervical care that corrects misalignments of the C1 and C2 vertebrae without any twisting, cracking or popping. Because all human beings are different on the outside and the inside, the procedure involves a series of diagnostic scans to identify the exact location, direction and degree of misalignment. Conventional CT and MRI scans often miss these misalignments because they are so small. However, do not be quick to discount the importance of even small problems in the body!
With this information, we are able to design an adjustment based on your exact anatomy and misalignment pattern. This provides the most specific correction (like a custom fit key in a lock) that gives you own body the best opportunity to heal the way it is designed.
Our team of doctors at Clear Chiropractic here in Spokane, Washington is here to help people with trigeminal neuralgia. We hope we can be of service to you as well to help get your life back.
If you or a loved one are experiencing trigeminal neuralgia, the Blair technique might be the solution you are seeking. If you are looking for a chiropractor in Spokane, visit our home page more information. To schedule a new patient appointment with our Mead (north Spokane) or South Hill offices, complete a new patient request form here or call us direct at 509-315-8166.