Trigeminal neuralgia, or mild to severe facial pain, is one of the many conditions effectively treated with a combination of chiropractic care and craniosacral therapy. Episodes of trigeminal neuralgia usually:
Span up to a couple of hours
are composed of individual shooting electric shock-like pains lasting a few seconds
appear intermittently, coming and going for days, sometimes weeks. and in some cases even months at a time
While the pain can also disappear for a period of time, sooner or later it typically returns and as it progresses the electric shock-like disturbances on the face last longer and become more piercing. The good news is a combination of gentle chiropractic care and craniosacral therapy can effectively treat both the painful symptoms and underlying causes of trigeminal neuralgia.
The Trigeminal Nerve
The trigeminal nerve is the fifth and largest cranial nerve in the head responsible for sending electrical signals and sensation to and between the brain and face. After leaving the brain, the trigeminal nerve travels within the skull ultimately dividing into 3 branches controlling sensations in zones throughout the face:
Ophthalmic Nerve: controlling a person’s forehead, eye, & upper eyelid.
Mandibular Nerve: Controlling the jaw and some muscles involved with chewing, lower lip and lower gum.
What is Trigeminal Neuralgia?
Nerves in the brain and spinal cord (including the trigeminal nerve) are coated with an insulating protective layer or sheath called myelin.
compromising of the myelin layer or
compressing of the myelin layer or trigeminal nerve itself in some way
can cause over-activity of the nerve resulting in pain. Thus the slightest lesion on the myelin layer or nerve, misalignment or subluxation of the upper cervical spine, bones in the jaw, or past compression whiplash (car accident) can result in trigeminal neuralgia.
Trigeminal neuralgia is a chronic disorder affecting the trigeminal nerve and producing pain in the jaw and face. The pain can be extreme, intermittent, shock-like or sudden burning, constant or surface only during specific activities like speaking or chewing, lasting anywhere from several seconds to a few minutes per attack. These episodes can occur close together, in stretches extending up to two hours. The pain can be surfaced from contact with the cheek (such as when shaving, applying makeup, or washing your face), drinking, or brushing teeth. The pain may be isolated to a small area of your face or it may spread.
Trigeminal Neuralgia Symptoms
Many have reported that their pain emerged spontaneously and seemingly out of nowhere. Others have said their pain appeared after a physical trauma to the face, after a car accident, and after dental work. Since the pain routinely at first surfaces along the upper or lower jaw, people assume they have a dental abscess.
Typically, trigeminal neuralgia surfaces with a numb or tingling sensation in the face, followed by mild, infrequent pinpricks across the face. It can also feel like someone is pressing or touching your chin, lip or cheek. However as trigeminal neuralgia progresses, the bouts of tingling and pinpricks transform into bursts of shooting pain lasting a few seconds to a few minutes, increasing until the pain becomes constant. After the initial incident flare-ups might strike for weeks or months, only to subside and not surface again for years. While the trigeminal neuralgia pain may seem to have disappeared, it often returns with greater intensity, making it important to structure a treatment plan sooner rather than later.
Summary of trigeminal neuralgia symptoms:
Attacks of severe, jabbing, or shooting pain that may seem like an electric shock
Spontaneous episodes of pain triggered by touching the face, speaking, chewing, or brushing teeth
Episodes of facial pain lasting from a seconds to minutes
Facial pain accompanying facial spasms
Pain along the trigeminal nerve tract, including the jaw, cheek, gums, teeth, lips, or occasionally around the eye and forehead
Pain striking one side of the face at a time
Focused facial pain that spreads in a wider pattern
What Causes Trigeminal Neuralgia
There are several potential causes of trigeminal neuralgia and what they all have in common is the disruption of the trigeminal nerve’s function. Commonly, contact between a normal blood vessel such as an artery or a vein and the trigeminal nerve results in pressure being applied to the trigeminal nerve causing it to malfunction. Any disorder that damages the myelin sheath such as a lesion or multiple sclerosis or a tumor compressing the trigeminal nerve can give rise to trigeminal neuralgia. It’s important to also be mindful that compression of adjacent structures within the brain or trigeminal nerve can lead to trigeminal neuralgia, such as a blood vessel compressing and aggravating the trigeminal nerve in the head. It’s also possible there might be a genetic link playing a role, as trigeminal neuralgia can run in families.
From a chiropractic standpoint, Trigeminal neuralgia is a disorder centered at the 5th cranial nerve, with the problem region identified at the point where the C1 vertebra and the brainstem meet the trigeminal nerve, and to the C2 vertebra. Anyone who’s experienced injuries to the neck or head, upper cervical spine damage can cause a spinal misalignment triggering trigeminal neuralgia. Or a change in posture as we age.
This becomes probable if the spinal misalignment occurs in the C1 – C2 vertebra region, which would apply pressure on the trigeminal nerve. It’s the proximity of the upper cervical spine to the brainstem and trigeminal nerve that makes the region highly vulnerable to compression from the slightest spinal misalignment or trauma.
Chiropractic Treatment for Trigeminal Neuralgia in New York City
The trigeminal nerve travels off the base of the skull on route to supply nerve stimulation to the face. Any damage or trauma to the upper cervical spine can disrupt the proper functioning of the trigeminal nerve and result in severe facial pain. Conventional medicine typically ignores the underlying cause and treats the pain symptoms with drugs that come with numerous side effects and waning effectiveness over time. However upper cervical chiropractic care relieves trigeminal neuralgia pain naturally, holistically, and permanently. Chiropractic treatment for trigeminal neuralgia centers examining, identifying, and correcting any misalignments or subluxations in the upper cervical spine, particularly in the C1 and C2 bones, and managing symptoms using decompression techniques.
In chiropractic care a subluxation is a mechanical disturbance and misalignment of the spinal column or cranial (bones of the head and face), not necessarily visible on X-rays, that disrupts the functioning of your nervous system, specific joints, tissue, muscle, bony structures, fascia, possibly tendons, ligaments and other parts of the anatomy. It’s important to be aware subluxations and misalignments can be painless, arise for a great many reasons, and can manifest at any point in the course of your lifetime.
Subluxations and misalignments can impose pressure, pinch, and even essentially ‘strangle’ nerves exiting the spinal cord and cranial nerves coming out of the cranium. Once identified I deliver a gentle and precise approach to treatment, meaning you won’t need to worry about any painful popping, twisting, or pulling on your neck and across your back. Correction restores the neck and spine to its normal position so that any interference can be removed and recovery from Trigeminal Neuralgia can begin.
Supplementing correction of misalignments and subluxations may include myofascial trigger point therapy to help reduce inflammation and relieve pain in the area where the nerve is affected. Myofascial trigger points are tight regions in muscles typically caused by inflammation, trauma, and nerve issues of the muscle and can emit pain over the affected region as well as transfer pain to other parts of the body, called referral pain.
In sum, upper cervical chiropractic adjustment alleviates pressure on the trigeminal nerve bundle by easing the neck bones to align with the body’s central axis. Addressing the neck bone misalignments through chiropractic adjustments also ensures that your brainstem and nervous system can communicate well with the rest of your body.
Craniosacral Therapy for Trigeminal Neuralgia in New York City
CranioSacral Therapy has been clinically indicated as effective for treating Trigeminal neuralgia because the methods are believed to be able to achieve fluid motion as well as relief of meningeal (protective membrane layers of the brain and spinal cord) and osseous restrictions (bone lesions and other bone abnormalities) near and around to the facial nerve” – Upledger JE. Craniosacral therapy Part I: Its origins and development.
Craniosacral Therapy is a gentle hands-on approach using the delicate touch of a finger(s) to skillfully balance the cerebrospinal fluid circulating around the brain and spinal cord. Craniosacral therapy differs from chiropractic care notably in that there are no sharp forces or tense acts, and this allows the body to relax and release naturally.
Craniosacral therapy involves applying light pressure of a finger or both hands together to influence the membrane layers of the head and spine containing the cerebrospinal fluid to improve circulation throughout the body. The membrane layer (the Dura Mater) plays an important role in cranial bone movement. The bones in the skull are mobile, there is movement between the plates of the head bones and facial bones. This movement facilitates fluid flow and movement of your bony structures in an area of your head and sacrum (the second to last bone of the spine). This mechanism bring fluid life and healing.
As a Chiropractor and Craniosacral Therapist, I can assess your head, sacrum and cervical spine for anything interfering with the proper functioning of your trigeminal nerve and if so, correct the issue allowing it to heal and return to its full and best health. Craniosacral therapy directly treats trigeminal nerve compression, or entrapment, and anything disrupting trigeminal nerve conduction that causes facial pain.
The trigeminal nerve originates in the pons (part of the brain and spinal cord) and connects with the upper 2 cervical spinal nerve roots in the trigeminocervical nucleus—in the upper spinal cord—and then travels all the way down to the C3 level. The trigeminal nerve can be encroached at any exit point causing trigeminal neuralgia.
Whether due to poor posture, misalignment of joints, herniated discs, an abrupt movement, muscle tension, or even emotional stress. The trigeminal nerve can be pinched typically at the base of the head where the brain meets the spinal cord. Afterward what generally happens is the pinched trigeminal nerve becomes entrapped in the connective tissue (fascia, ligaments, tendons, meninges) which has become less functional. By applying craniosacral therapy I can release any distortions or restrictions in the fluid flow within the tissue which will usually relieve trigeminal neuralgia pain.
Do you have questions about how craniosacral therapy and or chiropractic care can effectively treat trigeminal neuralgia? It’s important to be mindful that everyone’s circumstances are unique and I would have to know a few more details about what you’re coping with to be more insightful of treatment approaches going forward. However if you’re noticing any of the signs or symptoms of trigeminal neuralgia call me for a more personalized and comprehensive conversation.
About Dr. Kaminsky & Craniosacral Therapy
Dr. Kaminsky is a 1999 graduate of the University of Bridgeport College of Chiropractic. He is licensed to practice in NY and has completed close to three thousand hours of professional continuing education since becoming licensed in March of 2000.
The primary approach used in his office is Craniosacral Therapy (CST) which is a method focusing on the cranium (head) and sacrum (a large bone at the base of the spine) scientifically proven to control life sustaining fluid flow throughout the body.
Craniosacral Therapy is a gentle, non-invasive, hands-on manual therapy approach that brings about healing via the fluidity of the body. The existence of the Craniosacral System was first discovered by Osteopath Dr. William Sutherland in the early 1900’s, calling it Cranial Osteopathy. And later rediscovered, validated, and developed by Dr. John Upledger in the late 70’s early 80’s, who renamed it Craniosacral Therapy after doing five years of research at the Michigan State University, School of Medicine. In 1983 Dr. John, as he was fondly called, established a teaching institute in Palm Beach, Florida, to teach this cranial sacral method to all healthcare providers. The Upledger Institute is still very active today.
The craniosacral mechanism pumps fluid which is produced in the brain, called cerebro-spinal fluid (CSF), through the fascial network of the body, the purpose of which is to lubricate joints, muscles, organs, all cells and all tissues. It is the driving life force for your body’s systems to function properly, CSF also carries healing properties to bodily traumas, injuries and past surgeries.
The proper function of your cranial sacral mechanism, via CSF flow, maintains the normal tone of your muscles, provide nutrients to your organs, and keeps you out of pain. It sustains human life and allows your nervous system to stay responsive to challenges of daily living and your mind-body life experiences. The better your craniosacral mechanism functions, the better the flow of this life sustaining fluid, the better your body can handle physical and emotional stress. The uninhibited flow of this fluid throughout your body allows you to thrive, opposite of survival mode.
CSF is part of the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) brain and spinal cord), which is physically encapsulated within the dural membranes of the spine and head.
One of the functions inside of your brain is to automatically generate energetic rhythmic impulses that function to pump CSF throughout your body, regulating your peripheral nerves, nervous system and organ systems, which in turn, sustain your function (physiology) and life. It is an important force that maintains everything functioning in your body. This is what we call the Craniosacral System, or Craniosacral Mechanism. It is the hydraulic, energetic and rejuvenating system of your body.
This measurable life force of moving fluid is palpable to a trained craniosacral therapist, like the heart rhythm, pulse rhythm, breathing rate, that can all be felt, so too can the Cranial Sacral Rhythm (CSR) be palpated and measured. It is the foundational diagnostic tool in real-time used to evaluate your current state of well-being (or lack thereof), and potential for health improvement and healing.
Compromises of your rhythmic impulse, correlates to CSF flow restrictions in the system which the body is unable to self-correct or overcome on its own. This is the reason why over time we develop pain, dis-ease, symptoms, conditions, mind-body disconnect and basically all human physical and psychological ailments.
When the fluid isn’t flowing optimally, your bodily rejuvenation is affected, and this is where the skill of an experienced craniosacral therapist becomes valuable. By placing his or her hands on your body, most commonly on your head and sacrum, for diagnostic purposes, the practitioner can detect, feel, evaluate, and rate the SSQAR (strength, symmetry, quality, amplitude, rate) of the rhythm; then bring forth correction of any limitations with subsequent experienced hand placements on different parts the body during a session.
A craniosacral therapist helps your rhythm reset, restore and renew allowing for healing to take place of the mind-body connection, musculoskeletal tightness and spasms, neurological deficits, autoimmune issues, organ function, many common conditions, and of course pain. Through a practitioners properly focused and attuned touch, your body is facilitated to release channels of fluid stagnation and flow restriction, which ultimately breakthrough, overcome and improve CSR and the function of vital fluid flow.
Dr. Alex Kaminsky is an advanced practitioner of Craniosacral therapy, having studied up to advanced levels including SER and pediatric courses. He has built a solid foundation with many years of experience, treating babies, children and adults.
To learn more, visit the other pages on this website. Call to schedule your appointment with Dr. Kaminsky.