A Systematic Review evaluating the use of Acupuncture in the treatment of Trigeminal Neuralgia

By Karen Jeffrey

August 2011



Trigeminal Neuralgia (TN) is a chronic facial pain condition which can be difficult to diagnose and it's effects can be devastating to the lives of it's sufferers. Acupuncture has been shown to be effective in some chronic pain conditions, therefore a review in it's efficacy in TN is worthwhile.


TN is thought to be caused by deterioration of the myelin sheath creating abnormal pain sensations which can be triggered by everyday movements such as chewing or brushing of teeth. It's treatment relies either on powerful anti-convulsants developed for the treatment of epilepsy or surgical interventions, which in some cases relieves the pain by damaging the trigeminal nerve. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) views TN as one of a number of patterns of excess or deficient conditions. Acupuncture needles can be used locally to facilitate correct 'Qi flow' or use systemically to treat the underlying cause.

Aims and Objectives:

To determine the efficacy of acupuncture in the treatment of TN and to review the treatment approaches. To look at long term effects of treatment as well as making recommendations for future research.


A systematic review was performed of studies involving the use of Acupuncture in the treatment of TN. Online databases such as MEDLINE and online journals such as JCM were used. A strict criteria assessing suitability and study quality was reviewed by an outside assessor. The search process, data extraction and quality assessment was recorded in a series of tables.


15 studies were deemed suitable for inclusion however the low methodological quality precluded the use of meta-analysis or reaching any firm conclusions on efficacy.


Results of this systematic review are inconclusive however there are a number of treatment approaches available from a variety of sources that may warrant further research and practitioners may find these informative.