Trigeminal Neuralgia Triggers Which Make Life Difficult

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.

Click here to learn what trigeminal neuralgia feels like

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

  • Smiling
  • Laughing
  • Frowning
  • Crying
  • Opening the mouth
  • Screwing up the face
  • Squinting in the sunlight
  • Leaning or bending forward
  • Kissing
  • Hugging
  • 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
  • Shaving
  • 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
  • Swallowing
  • 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

Being Vocal

  • Talking
  • Shouting
  • Singing
  • Using a phone

Sleep

  • Tiredness
  • Yawning
  • Lying down
  • Pillow or blankets touching face
  • Head and face becoming cold at night

Health Issues

Weather

  • Cold
  • Wind
  • Gentle breeze
  • Rain
  • Hail
  • Snow
  • Thunderstorm
  • Bright sunshine

Inside Buildings

  • Air conditioning
  • Fans
  • Draughts
  • Bright or flashing lights
  • Bright sunlight through a window

Things We Wear

  • Glasses (vision or sunglasses)
  • Earplugs
  • Earphones or earbuds
  • Scarves or face coverings
  • Tight masks

Activities

  • Walking
  • Running or other high impact exercises
  • Reading
  • Computer work
  • Driving
  • Travelling

Noise

  • Music
  • Banging/thumping noises
  • Sharp piercing/high pitched noises

Smells

  • Strong-smelling food
  • Perfume/aftershave
  • Fumes from vehicles
  • Highly scented flowers
  • Air fresheners

Emotions

  • Stress
  • Anger
  • Sadness
  • Fear
  • Grief
  • Worry
  • Guilt
  • Anxiety
  • Loneliness

Click here to read posts about dealing with:
Stress ~ Guilt ~ Loneliness

Trigeminal Neuralgia Triggers. Picture of a woman's face. Picture is abstract design.

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.

Learn more about keeping a pain diary by clicking here

You can download a free pain diary
Pdf version or Word doc version

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.

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15 thoughts on “Trigeminal Neuralgia Triggers Which Make Life Difficult

  1. I don’t have TN but I’ve learned a lot from the posts you share, Liz. You describe it so well and it gives me just a little insight into the difficulties of living with trigeminal neuralgia and what it feels like, which I can only imagine… it sounds horrendous. As with anything it seems these things are experienced differently by everyone, so it makes sense the triggers will vary from person to person, too. If you’re able to identify some of the triggers you may have a slightly better change of reducing their occurrence or adapting things slightly to make things more bearable. It seems that just about anything can trigger or intensify the pain and other sensations, so it must be incredibly difficult to navigate day to day with so much that can impact your TN. xx

    1. It is a bit of a minefield, but knowing the things to look out for can be half the battle. Some triggers are talked about a lot, so people know about them, but the less well known ones are often triggers that people might be able to avoid.

  2. Rachael Tomlinson

    What a mine if information and thank you Liz, I think back to last year when I had my teeth removed and the pain afterwards, my dentist kept insisting I shouldn’t be in as much pain as I was but it was agony for weeks afterwards xx

  3. Kylie Valentine

    I have suffered for 10 months straight, every night every two hours of nasal nerve pain. I have tried everything and nothing works. I don’t know what’s causing it and I don’t know how to treat it. The only relief I get every two hours throughout the night is breathing in hot peppermint steam. Although it doesn’t take the swelling in my nose down it does relieve the stabbing pain in my nose. If anyone has any information on this I would most appreciate it.

  4. Hailey

    What has everyone done about the mask mandate? I can’t tolerate things touching my face, and was told I couldn’t purchase my medication because I didn’t have a mask on. I was literally picking up my oxcarbazepine! They actually called the police on me. I am on disability and don’t have the money to pay for food delivery, and the place I buy my food, well it’s not always the freshest and their expiration dates are not too far in future. I can’t live like this. There are exemptions for people like us, but my neurologist doesn’t want to get involved.

  5. Pauline

    My mum has TN and some mornings she can wake up and feel fine but by the time she puts her legs out the bed and sits there she can feel it starting to spark away. She knows the rest of her day is going to be hell.
    She has tried everything and assessed all triggers but nothing explains why it starts.

    Pauline

    1. Sophie

      16 years of 6 affected tn neves. Failed mvd. I’m just about given up trying to find hell. I’ve had enough. I just want to die.

  6. Madhu

    Dear Friends,

    I can say all those who go through TN are all brave hearts.

    My mother was going through it for a long time…medications rarely helped, sometimes it followed a time pattern, every day at a particular time the pain will begin…

    But, we found hope in ACCUPUNCTURE, the therapist came as a blessing for us. His treatment worked. And she is improving.

    No medicine, only ACCUPUNCTURE…

    Hope, this information will help you as well…

    Will place all of you in my meditation…

    Take care, hold on to hope, it will show the way…

    Thank you
    Madhu
    Palani,
    Thamizhl Naadu (Tamil Nadu)
    India

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