Registered massage therapists (RMTs) may be sought by patients suffering from a wide variety of medical disorders and chronic conditions. A very painful pathology that could be encountered on the face is called trigeminal neuralgia, affecting the trigeminal nerve root. This nerve relays information about touch, pain, pressure and temperature sensations in different areas of the face. Damage to it results in excessive nerve activity, causing sudden excruciating facial pain, such as an electric shock in one part of the face.
This chronic condition generally occurs when the myelin sheath that insulates the trigeminal (the skull’s fifth cranial) nerve has been worn away due to one of many possible causes. The longevity and intensity of pain experienced may differ but the incapacitating symptoms are similar and progressive. Since these pains can be triggered by a light touch or vibration, massage therapists are cautious not to exacerbate the condition, yet massage therapy may assist in pain relief in some cases.
Learn more about this disorder and how massage therapy can help.
While there is no known specific cause for trigeminal neuralgia (TN), the nerve root may be compressed because of injury, abnormalities in the surrounding blood vessels or Multiple Sclerosis, a disease that attacks the myelin sheath. It can also be caused by aneurysm, tumour, vascular malformation, dental work or simply aging. It most commonly afflicts people over the age of 50 and may be triggered by routine tasks like shaving or brushing their teeth.
Attacks can last anywhere from a few seconds to two minutes and may occur in succession, resulting in up to two hours of extreme facial pain. An atypical form of the disorder results in constant pain of a somewhat lower intensity. Patients with TN are generally treated with anticonvulsant medication and encouraged to seek care from a neurological physician, who may recommend a surgical procedure targeting damage to the trigeminal nerve. However, therapeutic massage may provide effective relief for patients seeking alternatives to drugs or surgeries.
Students in massage therapy college receive progressively advanced training and practicum experience to treat a diversity of patients with numerous types of conditions and pathologies. While massage therapy is generally contraindicated for acute stages of pain and patients may wish to avoid the entire head area, RMTs listen to their patients’ requests and check in frequently to ensure their comfort.
In attacks of TN, the patient’s affected facial tissues become tightened and hardened. Gentle massage and heated pillows can relax and soften the tissues until malleable to alleviate the pain. Cranial-sacral massage can help reduce the feelings of pressure, restoring the natural bone position in the head and neck area. Once the acute pain has passed, acupressure techniques, such as Shiatsu, may limit further pains while lymphatic drainage can reduce any fluid congestion that may be adding pressure on the afflicted nerve.
As the light pressure from massage or even your face cradle may antagonize the TN pain, graduates with a massage therapy diploma always work within a patient’s comfort levels to find safe positions and relaxing movements. Any pain around the head or neck requires additional caution and may be indicative of more serious issues. General relaxing massage for the rest of the body can alleviate a patient’s stress, according to their tolerance level.
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