People say that migraines are the worst kinds of pain imaginable. Others say that trigeminal neuralgia, labeled the suicide disease, is so excruciatingly painful that you’ll wish you were never born. So, who’s right? When it comes to migraine headaches versus trigeminal neuralgia, there’s really no contest.
Getting to know the trigeminal nerve
The trigeminal nerve is one of the largest nerves in your head. The trigeminal nerve rests at the base of your brain and has three branches that reach through your skull and towards your face. Its “fingertips” can access every nerve in your face, including your eyes, brow, forehead, nose, gums, cheeks, temples, chin, lips, and jaw. Literally, every single point on your face is affected by the trigeminal nerve branches.
Whenever your facial nerves receive stimulation, be it the whisper of a knit shawl or the warmth of a hot shower, the trigeminal nerve deciphers that stimuli and sends coded messages back to the brain.
What is trigeminal neuralgia?
With trigeminal neuralgia, or facial neuralgia, the trigeminal nerve relays false information back to the brain, triggering sharp, stabbing pains, sometimes similar to electric shocks. Like migraines, trigeminal nerve pain strikes one side of the face. TN attacks last only seconds, but they can occur repeatedly throughout the day, sometimes hundreds of times per 24-hour period.
With trigeminal neuralgia, only sleep and sporadic periods of remission bring relief.
What causes trigeminal neuralgia?
Scientists aren’t certain exactly what causes trigeminal neuralgia. They believe it is caused by a large artery near the base of the brain that presses down on the trigeminal nerve root, slowly wearing away the myelin sheath, a shield that protects the trigeminal nerve. This explains why multiple sclerosis (MS) patients suffer from trigeminal neuralgia, as MS destroys the myelin sheath of the nervous system.
Triggers of trigeminal neuralgia
To give you an idea of how intrusive trigeminal neuralgia can be, here are 15 everyday activities that can trigger intense, mind-numbing pain:
- Brushing your teeth
- Touching your face
- Putting on makeup
- Chewing food
- Swallowing food
- Combing or brushing your hair
- Showering and shampooing
- Feeling a cold blast of wind
- Hearing high-pitched sounds
- Hearing a loud noise
The migraine-trigeminal link
Migraine headaches are similarly agonizing, and a single migraine attack can last for days. With migraines, hundreds of triggers like food, weather conditions, lights, scents, hormones, stress, and exertion trigger symptoms like throbbing head pain, nausea, vomiting, visual distortions, brain fog, weakness, speech slurring, and temporary paralysis.
Migraine causes involve the the trigeminal nerve, only instead of the disorder being in the nerve itself, the dysfunction occurs in the brain. With migraine disorder, the brain triggers a reaction in the trigeminal nerve that causes it to excrete pain-producing chemicals, neuropeptides, which cause swelling in the brain’s blood vessels, resulting in intense migraine headache.
You might say that trigeminal neuralgia is the yin to migraine’s yang.
Can I have migraines and trigeminal neuralgia?
Even though migraine attacks and trigeminal attacks are two separate disorders involving the same nerve, it is possible for one person to suffer from both illnesses at the same time. Some migraine patients experience electric-shock pain symptoms similar to those felt by trigeminal neuralgia sufferers.
Treatment for trigeminal neuralgia and migraines
Not surprisingly, doctors prescribe similar drugs for treating migraines and trigeminal neuralgia.
Popular trigeminal nerve and migraine medications include:
- Anticonvulsants such as those prescribed for epilepsy
- Muscle relaxants
- Tricyclic antidepressants
Natural ingredients and therapies include:
- Vitamin and minerals- magnesium, B vitamins, including vitamin B12 and riboflavin
- Herbs- butterbur and feverfew
Please tell us…
Have you tried natural ingredients for trigeminal neuralgia or migraines? Please share your experiences with our readers…we’d love to hear from you!
Read more about migraine headache treatments:
How long will my Migraine Headache Last? A Migraine Symptom Chart
Migraine- National Headache Foundation
Trigeminal Neuralgia Information Page
Trigeminal Neuralgia- MayoClinic.com
Trigeminal neuralgia- PubMed Health