New research concludes that acupuncture is effective in the treatment of trigeminal neuralgia. Trigeminal neuralgia (TN) is characterized by intense pain in the face and is considered one of the most painful experiences a human can possibly experience. It is estimated that one in 15,000 people suffer from trigeminal neuralgia. TN is a disorder of the trigeminal nerve, which is a bilaterally paired cranial nerve with three branches: ophthalmic nerve, maxillary nerve, and the mandibular nerve. The trigeminal nerve is responsible for sensing pressure (tactition), temperature (thermoception), and pain (nociception). It is also involved in facial motor function for the muscles of mastication.
Acupuncture Relieves Facial Nerve Pain – The study focuses specifically on Liver Yang excess type trigeminal neuralgia and compares deep needling with shallow needling acupuncture techniques. The acupuncture points used in the study are St7 (Xiaguan), LI4 (Hegu), LV3 (Taichong), UB2 (Zanzhu), St2 (Sibai) and Jiachengjiang (M-HN-18). In both the shallow needle and deep needle groups, electroacupuncture was applied for 30 minutes bilaterally to the acupoints every other day. In the deep acupuncture needle group, the needle depth reached the sphenopalatine ganglion (SPG) at St7 and the supraorbital foramen, infraorbital foramen, and mental foramen for other points used in the research. In the deep needling group, the total effective rate was 93.8 percent. In the shallow needling group, the total effective rate was 87.1 percent. The researchers concluded that electroacupuncture is effective for relieving pain due to trigeminal neuralgia and that deep needling is more effective than shallow needling.
A special note on acupoint St7
It is a local facial acupuncture point with special significance because it is the meeting point of the Stomach (Yangming) and Gall Bladder (Shaoyang) channels. It has specific functions for relieving pain in the ears, jaw, teeth, cheek, mouth, eyes, and general channel pain. Although located at the lower border of the zygomatic arch in the depression anterior to the condyloid process of the mandible, this point is often needled 0.5 cun anterior to its classical location for cases of trigeminal neuralgia.