Acupuncture for Trigeminal Neuralgia – pre first session

I’m writing my journey on this from the very beginning – I haven’t been for my appointment yet, I’m due to go for my first session next Monday (more blogs to follow). I decided to book an appointment after reading online positive experiences TN sufferers have had with acupuncture. 

For context, I’m 33 and had MVD over 10 years ago. My TN was caused by a blood vessel leaning on the nerve. On the whole, MVD was successful; the surgeon put a small sponge between the nerve and blood vessel. For 10 years I’ve been 95% pain-free, but over the last few months, the pain has started coming back slowly but surely until now I’ve caved and gone back on the meds. I’m on 200-300mg daily of carbamazepine + ibuprofen/paracetamol. I don’t believe ibuprofen/paracetamol helps reduce the nerve pain, but they help reduce swelling and I feel like they take the edge off (placebo affect or not). I absolutely hate taking the medication as I feel they make my brain cloudy & my words are slurry. Plus they make me tired and groggy. 
I’m detailing what I was asked/what I asked the acupuncturist so I don’t forget and it gives you an idea what to expect. 

First session, £60 for approx an hour and half, then £40 for every subsequent session averaging an hour. He suggests having 1 appt a week for at least 4-6 weeks. 

He told me to wear a bra, as I might need to take my top off so he can place the needles in areas difficult to get to with a top on – ok, fine, needs must (done this before for massages & trips to the osteopath so it wasn’t a massive shock). He said he will probably need to place needles around my back, neck and feet too (note to self: talc before I go). 

I asked him a few questions: has he dealt with TN patients before & has he had success in reducing their pain? Yes, and yes. He told me of a lady who he sees who started seeing him once a week, then after 6 sessions, she went to every fortnight. Then it went to monthly, then every other month, and now she sees him every couple of months. He told me initially I would probably need to go weekly until we got to a stage where the TN pain would allow me to go for longer between sessions. He says for the first session, the TN pain would be reduced for less than a week, hence why he’s suggested going weekly at first. He said after the first session, I’m likely to be tired afterwards, due to after-affects of the acupuncture. He explained that it’s a way of the body repairing itself, so a good sleep will do wonders. 

I asked if he could make the pain worse. He said yes, it is possible, but he won’t because he knows what he’s doing. The way I feel right now is it’s worth a shot. TN is such an unknown – why am I having pain now, what’s happening? Why hasn’t the nerve repaired itself, surely after 10 years it should have rebuilt the damage that the blood vessel did? To get these answers, I’m trying to get my surgeon to review my notes. It’s been over a month since I initially got in touch. I’m emailing his PA every week for an update but due to COVID, it seems he’s too busy. I want him to refer me for an MRI to see if that can help us understand.

The acupuncturist said TN is worsened/caused by a build up of pressure that is usually in the neck, shoulder &/or back. Apart from my almost-instance response which was, “well no, mine has been caused by a blood vessel”, its hit the nail on the head. I suffer with extremely painful soreness around my left shoulder – left is the side my TN is on too. He didn’t know this when he said this to me. 

That’s it for now – updates when I’ve had my sessions. Apologies if this isn’t well-written – I have tried but being on the meds gives me cloud-fog. Forgive me! 

Interesting reading:

Acupuncture is an effective method to improve trigeminal neuralgia and its adverse effect is almost none. Acupuncture, as a part of the traditional Chinese medicine, has been used for 3000 years and it is generally regarded as a safe and effective measure to relieve pain.