What is Face Pain?
Face pain explained by Denver, Golden, Aurora, Boulder, Broomfield, Jefferson, and Littleton Colorado’s top pain doctors
Pain that a patient experiences in any part of the face, including the eyes, nose, and mouth, is defined as face pain. Pain in the face is a symptom that can be caused by many different health conditions, with the most frequent being trauma to the face or head, and headache. One of the most popular complaints reported by patients visiting emergency rooms and outpatient medical offices is facial pain.
Studies have shown that common face pain sensations can include but are not limited to:
- Sharp, stabbing pain
- Dull constant ache
- Increased pressure
Face pain can develop at any time due to an injury, the onset of a medical condition or as a symptom due to an ailment in a different part of the body. A frequent trigger of face pain is migraine headaches, which is usually linked with unilateral aching and throbbing in the face.
The trigeminal nerve (cranial nerve V) in the brain is the largest and most intricate of the cranial nerves. Its purpose is to deliver sensations to the face and membranes within the head. The trigeminal nerve is made up of three sections; the ophthalmic division (V-1), the maxillary division (V-2), and the mandibular division (V-3). Each of these sections affects sensory innervation to different parts of the face and head, which in turn can result in numerous types of pain being felt by a patient.
Neuralgia is a type of nerve discomfort that can occur when neurological functions are altered due to the inflammation or impairment of a nerve. Trigeminal neuralgia (TN) is a nerve disorder that can cause a patient to experience a sharp, jolting type pain in the face that can result in additional sensations of burning, constant aching, and numbness. Many experts claim that trigeminal neuralgia is one of the most painful conditions a patient can encounter. It is reported that about 150,000 people a year are diagnosed with trigeminal neuralgia. The condition arises when a blood vessel applies pressure on the nerve located at the base of the brain. Patients who suffer from trigeminal neuralgia sometimes have trouble performing day to day functions like eating and speaking.
Causes of Face Pain
Diagnosing the cause of a patient’s face pain can be difficult due to the extensive number of medical conditions that could be affecting the body. Numerous tests are usually administered to accurately assess the patient’s condition.
Common ailments that cause facial pain include:
- Salivary gland infection
- Cluster headache
- Migraine headache
- Sinus infection
- Sinusitis (severe inflammation of the sinuses)
- Trigeminal neuralgia
- Herpes zoster (shingles)
- Dental problems, infections, and diseases
- Occipital neuralgia
- Injury to the face, head, or neck
- Temporomandibular joint disorders
Treatments for Face Pain
A common treatment for patients experiencing face pain due to cluster headaches, migraine headaches, and infection is pain relieving medication or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). If mild doses of pain medication are unsuccessful, antidepressant medication or opioid medications may be prescribed by the physician.
Face pain caused by dental problems or dental disease is generally simple to treat since the source of the discomfort can be easily diagnosed and corrected by a dentist. Pain produced from sinus inflammation or sinus infection is similar, as a physician will be able to recommend a treatment plan that will quickly decrease the patient’s symptoms. The most common treatment options for temporomandibular joint disorders causing facial pain are joint injections, anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and chiropractic therapy.
Depending on the severity of trigeminal neuralgia, a patient will have numerous treatment options available. The most commonly used treatments are anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), opioid medications, antidepressants, occipital nerve blocks, and sphenopalatine ganglion blocks. There has also been a high success rate with Botulinum toxin type A for relieving face pain in trigeminal neuralgia patients. For patients with more severe face pain conditions, neuromodulation treatments are often recommended, such as peripheral nerve stimulation and spinal cord stimulation.
Alternative types of therapy have become a preferred option for patients who have mild cases of face pain. Treatments like acupuncture, relaxation, chiropractic pain management, and guided imagery have been shown to be very effective in reducing facial pain symptoms. These types of treatments are also beneficial for patients who suffer from face pain but are not viable candidates for other therapies due to a pre-existing health condition.
A person will most likely experience some type of face pain during their lifetime. Everyday ailments such as dental infections, injury, sinus infections ,and headaches can produce debilitating facial pain, causing patients to struggle with day-to-day functions. In more severe cases, face pain can be caused by trigeminal neuralgia, which is reported to be one of the most painful disorders the human body can endure.
There are many treatment options available for both mild and severe cases that have proved successful with decreasing face pain and, for some patients, completely eliminating their painful symptoms.
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