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Acupuncture for Treatment of Facial
Pain
What is Acupuncture?

Acupuncture is the stimulation of special points on the
body, usually by the insertion of fine needles.  
Acupuncture
points are seen to correspond to physiological and
anatomical features such as peripheral nerve junctions and
diagnosis is made in purely conventional terms (as opposed
to using
Traditional Chinese Medicine terms).  An
important concept used in Western Acupuncture is that of
the "
trigger point".

The
Trigger Point is an area of increased sensitivity within
a muscle which is said to cause a characteristic pattern of
referred pain in a related segment of the body.  An
example might be tender areas in the muscles of the neck
and shoulder which relate to various patterns of headache.
Diagram Showing Some Neck Trigger Points That Give
Rise To Some Facial Pains
Trigger points and their characteristic patterns of referred
pain can be treated by
direct needling at the trigger point.  
This concept is also used in
musculo-skeletal medicine
with
trigger points being treated by manipulative techniques.

What happens during a treatment?

Typically, between 4 – 10 trigger points are needled during
an
acupuncture session.
Photo of Acupuncture Needles
The needles are usually left in place for 10 - 20 minutes, although some practitioners
needle for only a few seconds or a small electrical current (
electro-acupuncture).
Some acupuncturists attempt to produce a sensation called "de Qi" - a sense of
heaviness, soreness, or numbness at the point of needling. This is said to be a sign
that an
acupuncture point has been correctly stimulated.  Many patients say that
they find
acupuncture a relaxing or sedating experience.

sessions over a three month period.  This might be followed by "top up" treatments
every 2 - 6 months.


Is acupuncture safe?

The needles used are individually sterilised and disposable.  They are used on one
patient only before being discarded.

Side effects are rare.  The most common events were bleeding at the needle site
and needling pain.  Aggravation of symptoms can occur (in 70% of these cases,
there was a subsequent improvement in the presenting complaint).

The highest rates reported by individual acupuncturists, expressed as a percentage
of consultations, were 53% for bleeding, 24% for pain, and 11% for aggravation of
symptoms.


What can I expect to feel?

Reaction to the insertion of the needle can be divided into two groups: Local and
General.


Local effects:

As the needles are so fine there is only the slightest prick as the needle pierces the
skin.  Afterwards, it is possible to have a variety of sensations from nothing at all to
a sensation of heaviness; a tingling sensation like pins and needles or the sensation
approaching that of a local anaesthetic.

If the needle is advanced further then there may be a duller pain or heaviness of a
limb which may last for some time afterwards.  It is possible that odd sensations
may be experienced in areas distant to the spot being needled.

General effects:

These are variable and tend to happen in more sensitive individuals.  Some patients
experience a lightness of mind and body, a relaxation which approaches effects
gained by 1 - 2 drinks of alcohol and is usually pleasant.  Others may simply feel
that their general well-being is improved.  Still others may feel no difference in their
general state.  It is possible for a few susceptible individuals to feel faint but this is
usually short-lived and subsides when the needle is removed.


Will acupuncture treatment help me?

75% of all people will get some benefit from acupuncture treatment.  The facial
pain may totally resolve or be much improved.

Unfortunately, about 25% of patients do not seem to respond to acupuncture and
we can never guarantee results.


Useful Websites:

British Medical Acupuncture Society

British Acupuncture Council


Useful Articles:

BDJ 2000.  Acupuncture - Introduction to Acupuncture in Dentistry

Effective Healthcare 2001.  Acupuncture

BDJ 2001.  Acupuncture - The Role of Acupuncture in Controlling the Gagging
Reflex using a Review of 10 Cases

BDJ 2009.  Immediate Effects of Microsystem Acupuncture in Patients with
Oro-Myofacial Pain & Cranio-Mandibular Disorders (CMD) - A Double-Blind,
Placebo-Controlled Trial

BDJ 2010.  Burning Mouth Syndrome - Is Acupuncture A Therapeutic Possibility

J Dent 2011.  Limited evidence that acupuncture is effective for treating
temporomandibular disorders

British Acupuncture Council 2012.  Acupuncture & Facial Pain
Last Updated 19th November 2013
Photo of Electro-Acupuncture