My Latest Trigeminal Neuralgia Attack Was Like a Knife Through the Molar

John Connor avatar

by John Connor |

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The pain from this trigeminal neuralgia (TN) attack was worse than any previous attack. And there have been aplenty.

I couldn’t function! But boy could I scream.

It was 8 a.m. and I was stirring awake. My tongue merely touched one of the bottom molars on the left side of my mouth and a knife was plunged into its roots.

My wife, Jane, turned up next to my bed and tried to understand my terrible miming.

Not happy! (Photo by John Connor)

There was no chance of speech, only incessant screaming.

She scrambled to find the two pills needed to quell monster TN attacks: oxcarbazepine and baclofen. I also use gabapentin, but it is useless in an emergency as it works slowly. They were all in my bulging drugs bag next to me. I pointed frantically to the section they were in.

Jane kept offering me water, but I just as frantically waved it away. Liquid would kill me!

The pills are small, so I could slip them in the right side of my mouth and just about swallow them down. As ever during an attack of this nature, they hardly made a difference.

Screaming continued.

We both had an answer: Where were my lidocaine patches?

I jabbed a finger on my left hand. Jane asked if they were in the box of drugs under my desk. A big thumbs up.

As soon as the local anesthetic went on, the pain began to subside.

That was two days ago, and there has barely been a twinge since.

For me, TN is a bit like an earthquake — lots of warnings, a major move of the Earth. A few aftershocks. When the pressure goes away, it leaves peace.

I’m sure it’s not like that for everyone.

We MSers are more prone to TN than the rest of the population. In people with MS, the condition is often caused by damage to the myelin sheath around the trigeminal nerve. Eventually, if the drugs stop working, you can have surgery to cut the nerve, but it doesn’t always work. I wrote a more detailed column about this a while back.

I guess if you are lucky enough not to have TN, I probably lost you ages ago. Because I write this column mostly as a diary, I don’t have a choice but to bang on about it this week. However, I’m very interested in any snippets of information about the trigeminal nerve.

While listening to a recent episode of the BBC radio show “The Food Programme” that focused on spices, I was very surprised to learn that the trigeminal nerve transmits the sensation of spicy food between the taste buds and the brain.

No wonder my nose explodes every time I eat curry.

Thankfully, no TN pain — just the excruciating enjoyment of my meal.

We’re one of the only creatures that like spicy foods. We humans are definitely weird!


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Hardy avatar


John, please look into the gamma knife procedure. My sister had bilateral continuous trigeminal allergen as a result of MS. She got the gamma knife procedure on the trigeminal nerves on both sides of her face. It has been life-changing for her. in the multiple years since having the procedures, she has had only minimal breakthroughs and has been able to wean off the masses of scary meds she used to have to take just to survive (she also did lots of self hypnosis but that only works for so long).

John Connor avatar

John Connor

Ta mate. Pretty sure that's been mentioned to me by my new pain consultant. I will certainly look into it.

Leanne Broughton avatar

Leanne Broughton

The worst part of my MS journey, TN. It only gets worse over the years. I had a rhizotomy in 2011 for right mandibular pain lasting 16 months. 8 years later the same pain is in the maxillary area, OMG.

Jen avatar


Hi John,
I get neuralgia often, of all varieties. In the interests of solidarity, here's an account of my worst one so far. Enjoy!

Lesley avatar


My TM last night was by far the worst...For what it is worth I purchased some numbing liquid which is used for gum or tooth ache. It helps but last night it was over before I could tell my partner where it was.


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