Facial pain refers to any pain that effects the nerves or bones that work to coordinate the face’s actions. Trauma is a common cause which can result in a loss of sensation in the face. Facial pain is also often caused by malfunction of the nerves that govern the face’s movement.
There are a number of potential causes of face pain, including musculoskeletal pain and nerve or neuropathic pain. Other common causes include trigeminal neuralgia, temporomandibular joint disorder and other atypical facial pain.
Peripheral Electrical Nerve Stimulation (PENS)
PENS is a potentially ground breaking advancement in the treatment of facial nerve pain, as it can be used to treat pain in an effective way without the use of strong medication or invasive surgery.
PENS is actually a fusion of the benefits of TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation), with electro-acupuncture. In essence it harnesses the benefits of both into a very effective way of treating pain. TENS is a more familiar treatment, whereby electrical impulses without needles are passed through the skin to treat the nerve endings and stop them from feeling pain. PENS is slightly different in the sense that the electrical impulses are delivered through the skin with needles.
This fundamental difference in the two applications is actually quite an important one because PENS can directly target the nerve endings that are causing facial pain. When a TENS procedure is used, the skin can often act as a barrier and some of the electrical stimulation is lost through the skin’s natural defenses, so a PENS system can get straight to the root of the problem and none of the potency of the electrodes is lost.
PENS can be used specifically to treat facial neuropathic pain, but there are some people who may especially benefit from PENS being the treatment option used to treat their condition.
PENS uses a low voltage electrical current delivered to the damaged tissue or peripheral nerves to relieve the facial pain. In effect, it dampens down overactive nerves that are causing pain.
PENS therapy does not destroy any nerves; it just makes them less sensitive to pain. A low voltage electrical current is delivered via a specially designed needle to a layer of tissue just below the surface of the skin close to the specific nerve, or to the nerve endings situated in an area that is painful. The needle is placed with a small amount of local anaesthetic on the skin. The needle is connected to a specialised machine that is then turned on and delivers the electrical current. The procedure lasts for about 30 minutes, then the machine is turned off and the needle removed. Patients can go home a short time after this.
PENS is considered as a particularly low risk procedure, with very few side effects, which may include some bruising and tenderness at the probe insertion site. There is a very small risk of infection and nerve damage. Some patients will have total pain relief, while others experience prolonged pain relief for three months or more.