Trigeminal neuralgia (TN) is a neurologic condition that is characterized by chronic facial pain. One of the common presumed causes of the condition is a blood vessel pressing on the nerve. Patients describe trigeminal neuralgia pain as either stabbing, electric shock-like or sharp. It is usually brief and intense and often occurs on one side of the face at a time, in the lower half of the face. While trigeminal neuralgia pain episodes are triggered by various activities including chewing, talking, smiling, and light touch, exercising is not one of the triggers. There’s no substantial evidence on the effect of exercising on trigeminal neuralgia, regardless, moderate exercises such as aerobics may improve pain symptoms.
Best Exercises/Activities For Trigeminal Neuralgia Patients
Trigeminal Neuralgia can interfere with the quality of life, one’s emotional well-being, and also engagement in daily routines. As much as medication and in extreme cases, surgery may help with the pain; medication may be ineffective at some point, and surgery is invasive, and if something goes wrong, the nerve may become damaged. In a study conducted on manual therapies and their association to trigeminal neuralgia pain and its reduction, it was reported that those in the study had either positive changes or resolution of trigeminal neuralgia pain.
One of the patients was a 63-year old female with Type 1 and 2 trigeminal neuralgia symptoms for a duration of two years. She had previously sought relief through dental treatments and medication trials, and her pain was as a result of thermal injury from prolonged exposure to weather-related extreme cold and sleet. After participating in 4 therapy sessions over the span of four weeks, she experienced a total resolution of pain symptoms by the third session. The fourth session was a follow-up treatment session to maintain pain-free level achieved. Additionally, clinical follow-ups were conducted at intervals of 6 months, 1 year, and 3-year post-treatment.
In each therapy session, a different technique was used depending on the daily presentation of the pain relief needs of the patient. For example, if superficial edema was noted, then lymphatic drainage massage was applied, if 5 grams of touch pressure induced pain, then another method was considered as per the objective of the relief.
Having the various methods available for the therapist made each session less of a strict protocol and more like an improvisation depending upon how the body and tissues respond on a particular day.
In another study, where physical therapy treatment approach was implemented, patients underwent continuous transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation for about 20 minutes over five days, for a month. Additionally, in case of any presenting symptoms, say muscle spasm, applicable physical therapies were implemented. If one experienced a muscle spasm, a hot moist pack was applied on the neck and trapezius muscle for 10 minutes. Also, the patient had to do isometric neck exercises for both sides, as well as motion exercises for the neck, to relieve pain. Deep breathing, which is a relaxation technique was also performed for 10 minutes so as to help patients be at ease.
Since trigeminal neuralgia pain attacks can occur in succession, it is advisable to keep yourself distracted, so as to decrease the likelihood of thinking about the pain.
Distraction activities can involve doing things you love, provided they do not have a trigeminal neuralgia pain triggering the effect. Also, incorporating habits such as covering the affected side with a soft cloth/cotton pad to reduce sensitivity, not drinking cold water and covering your face to avoid exposure to wind, as well as not eating hard foods or chewing can help decrease the pain episodes of trigeminal neuralgia.
The best exercises/activities for patients with trigeminal neuralgia are those that help alleviate pain and at the same time do not trigger a pain session. Some of the exercises trigeminal neuralgia patients can engage in include strengthening exercises, relaxation techniques, and other moderate exercises. Medically speaking, physical therapy approaches targeted at managing the pain symptom at hand are a better option, as they’ve proved to be quite effective. All in all, the best way to cope with trigeminal neuralgia is by knowing your triggers and knowing what works for you when it comes to managing the pain.
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