It’s no exaggeration to say that living with trigeminal neuralgia is difficult. Some people experience electric shock-like pain in the face. Other people, like myself, live with constant burning, aching, stabbing or throbbing facial pain. In both cases, there can be triggers which can cause or worsen the trigeminal neuralgia. Some of those triggers can be fairly obvious, but some are less so. Finding out what those triggers are can be helpful in managing the pain.
Why Do Some Things Trigger Trigeminal Neuralgia?
The trigeminal nerve carries information to the brain regarding our five senses (touch, taste, sight, smell and hearing.)
When the nerve doesn’t work properly or it is damaged, the brain might interpret any of those sensations as pain. This is why touching the face in any way (physically touched or even by a gentle breeze) is often a major trigger.
As well as being a sensory nerve, the trigeminal nerve is also responsible for motor functions by stimulating movement in some of the muscles in the face. This is probably why things like chewing and talking can also trigger pain.
Sometimes Nothing Triggers The Pain
Very often trigeminal neuralgia just flares up or worsens for no apparent reason. However, sometimes we might think that nothing triggered the pain, but it could be that we simply haven’t figured out that there was a trigger. Triggers don’t always cause pain straight away which makes it more difficult to know what caused the pain to spike.
Trigeminal Neuralgia Triggers Vary From Person to Person
Trigeminal neuralgia can be different for everyone. The pain can be different. The treatments can be different. And triggers can be different too. What makes one person’s pain worse, might not affect someone else.
Learn Your Trigeminal Neuralgia Triggers
It’s a good idea to learn what triggers your pain. If you know what the trigger is, you might be able to avoid it. If it’s an avoidable trigger, that means you can reduce episodes of trigeminal neuralgia or at least lower the severity of the pain.
Unfortunately, we can’t avoid absolutely everything in life, but by avoiding what we can, we might manage to lessen the pain.
What are Some of the Main Trigeminal Neuralgia Triggers?
Many triggers are well documented and people know to try to avoid them. But some triggers are less well known.
I have written a list of possible trigeminal neuralgia triggers. I want to stress the word ‘possible’. For some people, only one thing on the list might be a trigger. Other people might find several. Some people might have triggers that I haven’t listed. Please let me know if that’s the case.
This list might also help people’s families and friends to understand their pain more and why they need to avoid certain things.
Trigeminal Neuralgia Triggers
The list of triggers might seem so large that people will say, ‘so what can we do that doesn’t cause pain?’ But please remember that not all of these triggers will affect everyone in the same way.
Facial Expressions, Movement & Sensation
- Opening the mouth
- Screwing up the face
- Squinting in the sunlight
- Leaning or bending forward
- Face being touched
Personal Care (Teeth, Face & Hair)
- Brushing teeth
- Using dental floss
- Using mouth wash
- Dental checkups and treatments
- Showering if water touches the face
- Washing face
- Splashing face with water
- Applying aftershave
- Moisturising face
- Applying/removing makeup
- Applying/removing facepaint (Children get TN too)
- Washing hair
- Brushing/combing hair
- Blowdrying/styling hair
- Hairdresser/barber visits
Eating and Drinking
- Opening the mouth
- Biting, chewing or crunching
- Drinking from a glass or cup
- Drinking using a straw
Food and Drink
- Very cold food or drink
- Frozen food like ice cream or sorbet
- Iced drinks
- Very hot food or drink
- Very sweet food or drink
- Hard, crunchy or crispy food
- Citrus/tangy food or drink
- Spicy food
- Carbonated drinks
- Stimulants such as caffeine, sugar or alcohol
- Using a phone
- Lying down
- Pillow or blankets touching face
- Head and face becoming cold at night
- For the ladies – the menstrual cycle and the menopause
- Migraines (Check this post about migraines and TN)
- Hay fever
- Gentle breeze
- Bright sunshine
- Air conditioning
- Bright or flashing lights
- Bright sunlight through a window
Things We Wear
- Glasses (vision or sunglasses)
- Earphones or earbuds
- Scarves or face coverings
- Tight masks
- Running or other high impact exercises
- Computer work
- Banging/thumping noises
- Sharp piercing/high pitched noises
- Strong-smelling food
- Fumes from vehicles
- Highly scented flowers
- Air fresheners
How do You Know if Those Triggers Affect Your Trigeminal Neuralgia?
Sometimes it is obvious. If you go out into the cold, you might immediately get pain. Or if you drink piping hot tea, you might get pain straight away. But triggers don’t always bring on a trigeminal neuralgia attack straight away. Pain might start an hour afterwards or possibly even the following day.
A Pain Diary Can Help Find Triggers
A pain diary is an important tool in trying to manage your pain. If you write down everything you eat, drink, all activities etc., you might be able to track your triggers.
You might only be affected by some of those triggers or you might have other triggers. Please do let me know if I’ve missed any.
In the near future, I’ll be posting some ideas which might help you to avoid some of those triggers. If you follow my blog or follow me on Facebook or Twitter, you’ll get a notification when I add a new post.