Facial Pain Terms

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The Facial Pain Association in America have published a useful list of facial pain terms

We work closely with the FPA to provide information and education to all sufferers where ever they live in the world

Understand the words and terminology used for facial pain to become a more educated facial pain patient.

Ablative removal, separation or cutting of a structure

Acoustic neuroma (AN) a non-cancerous tumor growing on the acoustic or hearing nerve; occasionally AN can cause facial pain when it pushes a blood vessel onto the trigeminal nerve

Adhesions fibrous growths similar to scar tissue that forms at the site of tissue damage

Allodynia pain due to a stimulus which does not normally provoke pain

Analgesics medications that relieve pain

Anesthesia dolorosa painful numbness; occurs as unwanted side effect of some surgical TN treatments

Anesthetic an agent used to abolish pain

Anticonvulsant medication that prevents convulsions or seizures

Aplastic anemia potentially fatal blood disorder caused by damage to bone marrow. Rare but potential side effect of some anticonvulsant medications.

Arachnoid/arachnoiditis a membrane of the brain; when abnormlly thickened, it is a potential cause of compression on the trigeminal nerve and is then termed arachnoiditis.

Asymptomatic absence of symptoms

Atlas the top-most bone of the spine

Atropic wasted, smaller than usual

Atypical irregular, not conforming to the type

Atypical trigeminal neuralgia (ATN) a type of facial pain that may have some of the characteristics of classic TN (sharp stabs and trigger points) plus other symptoms (i.e. constant, aching or burning pain in addition to the stabs); sometimes referred to as TN2

Axon process of a nerve cell by which impulses travel away from the cell body

Auditory related to hearing

Bilateral referring to both sides; bilateral facial pain occurs on both sides of the face

Cerebellum part of the brain that controls movements

Cerebral cortex part of the brain that analyzes nerve signals and sends out responses

Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) a fluid composed mostly of water, glucose, salt and proteins that surrounds, cushions and provides nutrients to the brain and spinal cord; a CSF leak occurs when CSF escapes through a small tear or hole in the outermost layer of connective tissue (called the dura mater) that surrounds the brain and spinal cord and holds in the CSF. This is an uncommon risk of MVD and other surgeries of the head.

Cluster headache searing, boring, come-and-go pain in the face or forehead thought to be caused by dilation of the blood vessels in the skull; sometimes confused with trigeminal neuralgia

Cluster tic syndrome combination of cluster headaches and trigeminal neuralgia

Compounding a pharmacy technique in which medications are custom-prepared to meet specific needs of individual customers; those who offer this service are called “compounding pharmacists”

Computer tomography CT sophisticated X-ray which takes pictures of layes of the body at any depth.

Cranial nerves twelve pairs of nerves that serve various areas and functions of the head; the trigeminal (facial) nerve is one of these

Craniectomy surgical opening of the skull necessary for brain surgery

Craniosacral therapy gentle manipulation technique somewhat similar to light massage that is aimed at freeing the flow of cerebrospinal fluid; some believe impeded flow of this fluid can cause face pain

Deafferentation pain pain that occurs when parts of a nerve are injured to the point where they are disabled; usually a constant, burning type of pain

Deep brain stimulation A procedure in which surgeons insert a thin electrode through a small opening in the skull into the thalamus, a part of the brain where pain sensation occurs. A stimulation device attached to the electrode delivers low-grade electrical signals in an attempt to override pain signals.

Demyelination the process of losing or destroying myelin, the protective sheath around nerve fibers

Diagnostic distinctive feature of a disease

Dura. The waterproof covering that surrounds the brain.

DREZ acronym for “dorsal root entry zone,” a surgical procedure done in the neck region to disable the origin of the trigeminal nerve in the upper spine

Dysesthesia numbness or abnormal sensation severe enough that a it may be disturbing

Endodontist a dentist who specializes in filling root canals of teeth

Endoscope a surgical instrument that uses a tiny camera to project brightened and magnified images from inside the body

Epidemiology the study of disease as it occurs in groups of people or even other populations

Ephaptic transmission conduction across nerves at sites where it should not normally occur.

Facial nerve cranial nerve that controls most of the muscles and sensation in the face and some of the muscles that control chewing

Facial palsy weakness of the muscles of facial expression

Gamma Knife a non-incision surgical device that uses gamma radiation to cause precisely aimed damage to targeted tissue; used to create lesions on the root of the trigeminal nerve to lessen pain

Ganglion a cluster of nerve cells

Gangliolysis a surgery to create targeted damage to a ganglion, usually to stop pain signals from getting to the brain

Gasserian ganglion the cluster of nerve cells where the trigeminal nerve branches out into its three divisions and exits the skull

Gate Control a theory to explain how pain is experienced

Glial cells type of cells that the body uses to build myelin, the insulating sheath around nerves

Glossopharyngeal neuralgia pain that is in the throat and neck;  involving the glossopharyngeal nerve

Glycerol an oily alcohol substance that damages nerve fibers when in direct contact with the fibers

Granulomas abnormal growths as a result of irritation

Hematoma a bruise

Herpes zoster also known as shingles, this is a viral infection caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox; can cause burning pain on the face and/or body

Hypesthesia medical term for numbness

Hyperalgesia an increased response to a stimulus which is normally painful

Idiopathic refers to a disease or condition of unknown cause or origin

Lesion an area of tissue damage

Linac acronym for linear accelerator, a non-incision surgical device that uses high-energy X-rays to cause precisely aimed damage to targeted

Lumbar puncture insertion of a needle into the back to tap out CSF for testing

Mandibular area referring to the lower jaw region of the face

Masseter  a muscle which runs through the rear part of the cheek from the temporal bone to the lower jaw on each side and closes the jaw in chewing

Maxillary area referring of the upper jaw and cheek region of the face

Meckel’s cave cavity made up of dura mater (brain lining material) in which sits  the trigeminal ganglion and the divisions of the trigeminal nerve it is located inside the skull

Meningioma tumor of the meninges, the membrane that covers the brain and spinal cord; can cause facial pain if the tumor pushes a blood vessel against the trigeminal nerve

Microvascular decompression (MVD) type of brain surgery in which the aim is to lift a compressing blood vessel off the trigeminal nerve and insulate the two with a small cushion

Motor cortex stimulation surgical procedure in which one or two small contact plates attached to an electrical stimulation device are placed on the surface of the brain over the cortex region; stimulating this region with low-grade electrical current reduces activity in the thalamus where pain is felt

Myelin the protective coating that surrounds nerve fibers; made out a layer of proteins packed between two layers of lipids (fats)

Myofascial pain dull, aching muscle pain of uncertain cause; when it occurs in the facial muscles, the pain can be triggered by touching the area

Nerve block use of a drug, chemical or surgery to stop a nerve signal from getting through to the brain; can be used for temporary pain relief or as a way to diagnose the exact nature and location of a pain

Nerve fiber strand of tissue made up of nerve cells that carries nerve impulses (biochemical signals to and from the brain)

Nervus intermedius a branch of the genicular nerve; when compressed by a blood vessel, it can cause pain deep in the ear

Neurectomy surgical removal of a nerve or nerve branch

Neuropathic pain originates in the nerve, usually due to injury or disease

Neuropathy disturbance of function or pathological change in a nerve causing numbness when it occurs in a sensory nerve

Neurotransmitter body chemical that is used to transmit nerve impulses from one nerve cell to another; sodium and calcium are two of the most common

NICO acronym for neuralgia-inducing cavitational osteonecrosis; presumed cause is a chronic infection of bone in the jaw that can damage the nerve branches in the affected bone

Nociceptor type of nerve receptor that activate when there is a painful stimulus

Ophthalmic area referring to the region of the face around the eyes

Opioids pain-killing agents that originate from the poppy flower and its product, opium

Orofacial area of the face around the mouth

Palsy a medical term which refers to various types of paralysis, often accompanied by weakness and the loss of feeling and uncontrolled body movements

Pain threshold the point at which an applied, escalating sensory stimulus (heat, cold, pressure, pin-prick, etc.) is reported by a person as pain

Pain tolerance the reaction of a person to reported pain after it has crossed the pain threshold

Paratrigeminal neuralgia throbbing headache-like pain in the upper branch of the trigeminal nerve, thought to be caused either by an inflammation or infection of the nerve; also called “Raeder’s syndrome”

Paresthesia an unusual sensation that may be described as “tingling,” “crawling” or pins and needles; often accompanies mild numbness; an abnormal sensation whether spontaneous or evoked

Percutaneous through the skin; when referring to “percutaneous procedures” in treating facial pain, a type of surgery in which the surgeon inserts a needle or electrode through the cheek as opposed to entering the skull

Peripheral nerves nerves outside the brain and spinal cord; these include the many branches of the trigeminal nerve that serve the teeth, gums and other parts of the face

Post-herpetic neuralgia a type of facial pain caused by damage from the herpes zoster (chicken-pox) virus; may occur after a bout of shingles

Preganglionic situated proximal to the a ganglion

Radiofrequency use of generated heat through an electrode to cause selected damage to tissue

Radiosurgery the use of radiation devices to treat diseases and disorders without having to cut into tissue; examples are Gamma Knife and CyberKnife

Refractory stubborn or unmanageable; resistant to a process or treatment

Remyelination the process of rebuilding lost or damaged myelin, the protective sheath around nerve fibers

Root entry zone section of the trigeminal nerve near the brainstem at which point the myelin covering changes

Rhizotomy surgery to cut or damage a nerve root so as to interfere with the transmission of pain signals to the brain

Stereotactic guided by X-ray view or similar scanning device; a way for surgeons to be guided to precise, three-dimensional locations in the skull and face

SUNCT acronym for “short-lasting, unilateral, neuralgiform headaches with conjunctival injection and tearing”; a sharp, come-and-go pain centering around the eye along with a red eye, tearing and a runny nose; believed to be caused by an inflammation of blood vessels around the eye

Secondary trigeminal neuralgia facial pain that occurs as a result of another condition, such as multiple sclerosis or a tumor

Temporal arteritis aching, throbbing and sometimes burning pain in the temple area caused by an inflamed artery in that area

TENS unit a device that delivers regular, low-grade electrical signals that distract or override pain signals; TENS is an acronym for transcutaneous electrical stimulation

Thermocoagulation using heat to create tissue injury; the technique used in radiofrequency lesioning surgery

Thalamus the part of the brain that relays messages between various parts of the body and the appropriate other part of the brain; the brain’s “central switching station”

Tic douloureux “painful spasm” in French; another name for trigeminal neuralgia

TMJ disorder/TMD pain in the jaw joint

Trigeminal neuritis an inflammation of the trigeminal nerve and/or its branches

Trigeminal nucleus the origin of the trigeminal nerve in the top three bones of the spinal column, the upper-cervical spine

Trigger point often at the end of a nerve which if touched results in pain; also referred to as the action that sets of facial pain, such as tooth-brushing, cold air, or chewing



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