Monday, 26 August 2013

Let’s start with some empathy, compassion and understanding

What is trigeminal neuralgia and what can it compare to in pain intensity? Trigeminal Neuralgia (TN) is a nerve affliction in the face. The pain is recognized as one of the most painful known to mankind. As of today there is no cure.

Yes you say that I have heard, but what does it actually mean? First of all it is important to understand that this is not merely a headache or something you can snap out of. A headache can be treated with an aspirin and the pain will in most cases fade away. That kind of medication does nothing for nerve pain. What might help the pain is anti seizure medication that needs time to build up in the system and nothing you can take when you feel like it, or just take an extra.

As to positive thinking and just get on with it, it’s very easy to say but not so easy to do when your having bad pain and everything you do from eating, drinking, talking to actually breathing sets the pain off even more. To get an idea you can try to put clothespins in your lip, cheek, nose etc and see how easy it is to ignore that pain. And that pain is nothing compared to the intensity and pain of TN.

So what can we compare the pain with that everyone can recognize. Many have TN type 1, meaning zaps and lightning sharp pain. Each attack can last from a few seconds to hours.

The mild TN attacks can on the pain scale be compared to: Whiplash, ear infection, mild back pain and the flu...

Medium TN attacks are at the same point on the pain scale as: Migraine, dislocated elbow, arthritis, ingrown toenail and childbirth

Bad attacks are actually over the pain scale in intensity and women say they prefer giving birth multiple times than having that pain.

Some have TN type 2 also called atypical TN, aTN, a constant pressing, churning pain that you have 24/7. With aTN you’re never pain free.

What does aTN compare with on the pain scale?

Mild or what most call low pain is actually higher than what a normal person would endure before asking for an aspirin. Mild pain is at the same place on the pain scale as tooth ache or strong head ache, and higher than hitting your head or having blisters on your feet.

Medium aTN pain is around the same intensity as hemorrhoids, broken arm or appendix.

Bad aTN pain is also over the normal pain scale, more painful than giving birth or dislocated elbow. And the pain is 24/7 and can be for months at a time before lowering. ATN pain never disappears.

Some have both type 1 and 2, and when both are bad everybody can understand that that pain is unreal, not understandable and utterly excruciating.

Then we get the question, how can you live with that pain, that’s not human and I don’t understand.
Well, first of all, we don’t have a choice do we. You have to find a way to manage to live with it. Some can get better through medication and some can have medical procedures done. Some have to live without medication as they are allergic and some have had surgery but the pain came back. Regardless we just have to find a way to cope and go on living.

Today there is a lack of knowledge amongst medical professional and dentists. Sufferers can go years before getting diagnosed. Many also lack the support of friends and loved ones as they have difficulty in comprehending something they have never experienced and therefore reject.

We need awareness – and we need a cure. But let’s start with some empathy, compassion and understanding. Can you do that?


  1. Compassion, empathy and understanding. What a perfect place to start. Wonderful post. Thank you x

  2. You, have beautifully captured what is difficult to explain to others. Thank you!!

  3. Wonderful explanation. And for those of us who have a less severe case or are in remission for a day or two, it doesn't go away and can often show up more painfully in a different place. Or the meds can have their own side effects to deal with as well. Or find a doctor that REALLY understands TN and the pain.

  4. Wonderful way to explain our monster.

  5. have shared hope you don't mind.

  6. My girlfriend who is just 29 suffers from this and I feel so bad for her. I need help with learning compassion and empathy I’m just lost...


Thank you for your comments.