Acupuncture for Facial Pain

What is acupuncture for facial pain?

Acupuncture is a technique of traditional Chinese medicine. It has been practiced for more than 3,000 years. According to the 2012 National Health Interview Survey, more than three million U.S. adults had used acupuncture in the previous year. It is covered by many insurance policies.

An acupuncturist should encourage you to stay with your current course of conventional facial pain treatment and to use acupuncture for facial pain symptoms only as an adjunct.

How does acupuncture work?

Acupuncture improves the body’s functions and promotes the natural self-healing process by stimulating specific anatomic sites – commonly referred to as acupuncture points, or acupoints. The most common method used to stimulate acupoints is the insertion of fine, sterile needles into the skin. Pressure, heat, or electrical stimulation may further enhance the effects. Other acupoint stimulation techniques include manual massage, moxibustion or heat therapy, cupping, and the application of topical herbal medicines and ointments.

Traditional medicine

Traditional Chinese Medicine is based on an ancient philosophy that describes the universe, and the body, in terms of two opposing forces: yin and yang. When these forces are in balance, the body is healthy. Energy, called “qi” (pronounced “chee”) flows along specific pathways, called meridians, throughout the body. This constant flow of energy keeps the yin and yang forces balanced. However, if the flow of energy gets blocked, like water getting stuck behind a dam, the disruption can lead to pain, lack of function, or illness. 

Acupuncture therapy can release blocked qi in the body and stimulate function, evoking the body’s natural healing response through various physiological systems. Modern research has demonstrated acupuncture’s effects on the nervous system, endocrine and immune systems, cardiovascular system, and digestive system. By stimulating the body’s various systems, acupuncture can help to resolve pain, and improve sleep, digestive function, and sense of well-being.

Scientists don’t fully understand how acupuncture works in the body to relieve pain. The effect may not be entirely due to the needles. The patient’s expectations and beliefs about acupuncture may play important roles in how it may help relieve pain. 

Is acupuncture safe?  

Acupuncture is generally considered safe when it’s done by an experienced practitioner using sterile needles, but may cause serious harm if not done properly.  

What does the science say? 

There has been a small amount of research undertaken looking at the effect of using acupuncture for trigeminal nerve pain. Currently the available research is lacking and much of it tends to be case studies or comparing types of acupuncture treatment methodologies.  

What to expect if you try acupuncture for facial pain

Typically, the acupuncturist will talk with you about your symptoms, how long you have had them, and your current pain management regimen. Depending on the presentation of trigeminal nerve pain symptoms, the acupuncturist may needle the face, hands and feet, and possibly behind the neck. Your sessions will likely start with a very gentle approach to needling. Depending on your response to the first treatment session, the acupuncturist will discuss with you the ongoing needling approach to take.  

Depending on the length of time you have had the facial pain and the severity of your symptoms, you may have treatment once a week, or every other week. Your acupuncturist will speak to you about their recommendations for the regularity of your acupuncture sessions. Some acupuncturists also provide services that you may want to try, including acupressure, cupping, and massage. Talk with your doctor if you are unsure whether to try these therapies.

What you should know about acupuncture

  • If it hurts, it only hurts a little. The needles used are very slim and most people do not feel any pain as they enter your skin. You may feel a sense of pressure.
  • Needles are used only once and should be sterile. Ask your acupuncture provider if you have any concerns about how the acupuncture equipment or procedure is provided safely.
  • Expect to have multiple treatment sessions. Many people look forward to acupuncture sessions, knowing they are providing pain relief. In fact, you may notice other improvements in your health as a happy side effect.
  • Acupuncture is not religious or spiritual; it does not require you to have certain beliefs. You should not feel uncomfortable undergoing acupuncture based on your personal beliefs.


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By filling out the form below, you will receive a free FPA Patient Guide and periodic updates on the management and treatment of facial pain conditions. We do not share this information with any outside sources.