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Case Studies

chief complaint: facial pain (tic doulereux)

A 68 year old woman complained of very severe, right-sided facial pain for 5-7 years, on a worsening course for the past 6 months. Her medical diagnosis was tic doulereux, or trigeminal neuralgia. There was no medical intervention or medication. In the past, the pain seemed to improve for a time with chiropractic treatment, though the relief was not long lasting. Most recently the pain occurred 2 times per day or more, unpredictably, or at times triggered by light touch to her face, mouth, or hair. The pain was "like an electric shock", of stunning intensity, lasting from 2 - 20 seconds. On a scale of 0-10 where 0 represents no pain at all and 10 represents the worst pain imaginable, her pain was a 10+/10. 

In addition to the pain, the patient had a flushed facial complexion with red areas concentrated along the cheeks and jowls. Her lips were very red, swollen, and somewhat painful. This condition had been much worse 5 years before, and was greatly helped by eliminating food coloring and other preservatives from her diet at the suggestion of her naturopathic physician. The patient also had a red, sore tongue tip with a strong burning sensation, bleeding gums, bad breath, and heartburn. She craved ice cold drinks. She had red, itchy eyes, dry skin, and a dry throat and was often constipated.

From the perspective of Oriental Medicine, this was a type of heat condition. The area of pain and redness on the face precisely corresponded to the pathway of the Stomach meridian.

The patient was treated with acupuncture 8 times: 3 times weekly and then every other week and at longer intervals. The frequency and intensity of the pain was relieved almost immediately. After 2 sessions, the pain was 90% resolved. After the 3rd session, she had no facial pain at all and no headaches. Many of the other symptoms improved as well, including the red lips and constipation. We continued tuneup sessions at monthly intervals or longer to make sure the results were enduring. The patient enjoyed her acupuncture treatments as they were deeply relaxing and induced a heightened sense of wellbeing. The good effects achieved did not require direct needling of the painful areas of the face. Treatment costs for this patient were about $500.

text copyright @2001 by
Meredith St. John
Boston, MA