While some patients respond to moderate doses of single-drug therapy and microvascular decompressions (MVD`s), many others suffer through prolonged unsuccessful treatment approaches. This includes large doses of medications with adverse effects, complications related to surgery, and postoperative relapse of symptoms. The side effects of the various antiepileptic medications often prescribed for TN patients include dizziness, ataxia, nausea, vomiting, hematological abnormalities, and cardiac arrhythmia. In addition, a high proportion of TN patients take pain medications including narcotics.
All 7 female participants and 4 of the 5 men in the study responded favorably to acupuncture. Five of the patients were even able to discontinue their medications following complete remission of the TN. One of these 5 participants required only 2 acupuncture treatments to reach complete remission, while the others required from 3 to 9 treatments to get this result.
Acupuncture has been recognized by the National Institutes of Health as a scientific therapeutic modality with an effective pain-relieving ability. The beauty of acupuncture treatments is that they are virtually devoid of side effects, non-invasive and extremely safe. It is postulated that the insertion of acupuncture needles causes enhanced blood flow to the affected area. With multiple acupuncture treatments, the cumulative effect may actually lead to nerve repair in the case of the demyelinated trigeminal sensory fibers mentioned in the first paragraph.
Herbal medicine can also be used together with the above acupuncture protocol to enhance the effect. An often used Chinese Herbal Formula for TN patients is known as xue fu zhu yu tang. This combination of 11 Chinese herbs includes peach kernel (Persicae Semen), safflower petals (Carthami Flos), Szechuan lovage root (Chuanxiong Rhizoma), and Chinese angelica root (Angelicae sinensis Radix) as the first 4 herbs. These herbs are considered in the Traditional Chinese Medicine theory to have a strong invigorating or circulating quality, and serve the role of alleviating pain by eliminating blockages or stagnations in the body.
The TN study mentioned above concludes that acupuncture treatment should be considered before more invasive intervention is attempted. This agrees with clinical results that many acupuncture clinics have been reporting. However, it should be noted that this particular study had a relatively small group of participants, and did not employ a randomized, double-blind format. It will be useful to seek further scientific validation of the effect of acupuncture in TN treatment.
Sources for this article:
Chinese Herbal Medicine Materia Medica, 3rd edition, by Dan Bensky, et al.
Handbook of Oriental Medicine, 3rd edition, by Hyunbae Kim.
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