Acupuncture May Alleviate Pain in Idiopathic Trigeminal Neuralgia

woman getting acupuncture on head and temples
woman getting acupuncture on head and temples
Acupuncture may reduce pain intensity and mechanical thresholds in patients with idiopathic trigeminal neuralgia.

Acupuncture may reduce pain intensity and mechanical thresholds in patients with idiopathic trigeminal neuralgia, according to the results of a recent study published in the Chinese Journal of Integrative Medicine.

In this longitudinal case-control study, patients with idiopathic trigeminal neuralgia and receiving anticonvulsants and carbamazepine were quasi-randomly assigned to receive 10 weekly sessions of acupuncture (n=15), 10 weekly sessions of sham acupuncture with superficial needle placement (n=15), or to continue their carbamazepine treatment (600 to 1200 mg/day; n=30). In addition, 30 age- and gender-matched healthy controls were included.

After the final treatment, the mean pain intensity – assessed with the Visual Analogue Scale – decreased from baseline levels in the acupuncture group (P =.012). Both acupuncture and sham acupuncture were associated with an increase in carbamazepine doses after 6 months, but this was only statistically significant in the sham acupuncture group (P <.01).

Secondary myofascial pain and mandibular limitations were reduced in the acupuncture and sham acupuncture groups immediately after treatment. After 6 months, study participants in the acupuncture group continued to show improvements in myofascial pain and mandibular limitations. Tactile and vibration mechanical thresholds were decreased in the acupuncture group, while deep pain thresholds were increased in both acupuncture and sham-acupuncture groups.

In an interview with Clinical Pain Advisor, Silvia de Siqueira, associate professor at the University of Sao Paolo in Brazil, concluded that, “Through the reduction in shock-like pain and in intensity, neuropathic pain showed benefit from acupuncture. However, it is temporary — only myofascial pain maintained the results after 6 months.” She emphasized, however, that this “does not invalidate the results, and acupuncture is a good choice for patients with anticonvulsant allergy, pregnant women with trigeminal neuralgia, and elders who do not tolerate side effects or have contraindications for neurosurgery.”

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Ichida MC, Zemuner M, Hosomi J, et al. Acupuncture treatment for idiopathic trigeminal neuralgia: A longitudinal case-control double blinded study. Chin J Integr Med. 2017;23(11):829-836.