Facial pain is unpleasant and can feel hard to explain if you haven’t had an injury. This guide will help you figure out the cause of your facial pain and introduce some great ways to cope with facial pain.
Causes of Facial Pain
Different Types of Facial Pain
There are several possible causes of facial pain. Facial pain is commonly the result of headaches or injury. If your facial pain cannot be explained by headaches or injury, there are some other causes that are important to consider.
Temporomandibular joint dysfunction - TMJ
The temporomandibular joint, more commonly referred to as TMJ, is the point on each side of your head where your jaw connects to your skull.
TMJ disorders are common in Americans. TMJ disorders are conditions that cause pain in the jaw joint and the surrounding muscles. TMJ disorders can also cause movement difficulty in these areas.
If you experience your jaw locking, clicking, popping, or grinding, you may have a TMJ disorder. TMJ disorders also cause stiff jaw muscles, difficulty opening your mouth, and pain that can extend beyond your jaw into your face, head, or neck.
Even if you’re feeling the pain in your face or head, you can probably trace it back to the joint to identify a TMJ disorder. Use your fingers to see if the area around your jaw joint is tender and painful.
Another sign your facial pain is the result of a TMJ disorder is if your pain is worse when you chew. You may find certain foods worse than others for triggering your TMJ pain.
TMJ disorders can be linked to stress, so one way to cope with facial pain from a TMJ disorder is to work on stress reduction techniques. You can also use over the counter pain medications to help deal with TMJ disorder pain. Severe cases sometimes call for surgery in order to correct jaw alignment.
The trigeminal nerve is a nerve in your face which has three main branches providing sensation to your scalp, forehead, cheeks, lips, and lower jaw. Trigeminal neuralgia is a disorder causing chronic pain in this nerve.
People with trigeminal neuralgia tend to have pain on only one side of their face, but some do experience the pain on both sides.
If your facial pain comes on suddenly and is triggered by certain activities, such as eating or brushing teeth, you might be suffering from trigeminal neuralgia. Trigeminal neuralgia can also be triggered when wind blows in your face.
Facial pain from trigeminal neuralgia has been described as anywhere from a stabbing pain to a constant aching or burning pain. Episodes of pain from trigeminal neuralgia can last for days or weeks at a time. For some, the pain grows more severe and more frequent with recurrent episodes.
Trigeminal neuralgia can be caused by pressure on the trigeminal nerve, nerve damage, or underlying medical conditions such as multiple sclerosis. Nerve damage might be the result of an injury, a stroke, or facial surgery.
There are prescription medications and surgeries to help with trigeminal neuralgia. You can also try to limit episodes of facial pain by avoiding activities that will likely trigger your pain.
A dental abscess is a bacterial infection in the soft tissue of your tooth. They are usually the result of tooth decay or damage. If your facial pain can be traced back to an abscess tooth, you’ll be able to identify painful red gums and loose teeth. You also might have fevers and a bad smell or taste in your mouth.
If you have a dental abscess you should make an appointment with your dentist. These infections can spread to other parts of your mouth and your jaw. Your dentist can prescribe antibiotics to kill the bacteria and drain the pus from the abscess.
If your facial pain is located around your nose, cheekbones, and forehead, it could be the result of inflamed sinuses. Inflamed sinuses usually occur after a head cold or nasal allergies.
Facial pain from sinusitis is usually experienced as pressure and tenderness. You may also have a stuffy nose and green or yellow mucus.
Sinusitis usually clears up on its own, but you can treat your symptoms with over the counter pain medications, steroid nasal sprays, and salt water neti pot treatments to clear out your blocked sinus cavities.
If your sinusitis lasts longer than 10 days, your doctor may decide to prescribe an antibiotic in case it has developed into a bacterial infection. People with chronic sinusitis lasting more than 12 weeks can have surgery to open and drain the sinus cavities.
Coping with Facial Pain
Orofacial Pain Trigger Point Therapy
There are trigger points in your face that can have a significant impact on your facial pain. Certified healthcare professionals can use trigger points in your face to identify, diagnose, and treat facial pain.
Orofacial pain trigger point therapy can be extremely beneficial for those dealing with chronic facial pain, especially TMJ disorders. The American Academy of Facial Esthetics (AAFE) offers courses in non-surgical and non-invasive facial injectable techniques to healthcare professionals.
Make an appointment with a member of AAFE trained in orofacial trigger point therapy to get a diagnosis and start coping with your facial pain.
Chronic facial pain is often triggered or made worse by stress. Relaxation is extremely important for coping with facial pain. Practices like meditation, yoga, visualization, and exercise will help reduce your stress and hopefully your facial pain as well.
Over the counter pain medications can be used to cope with facial pain. These will probably work best for facial pain caused by headaches, injury, infection, or mild TMJ disorders. Over the counter medications are unlikely to be effective in cases of chronic severe facial pain.
If you have trigeminal neuralgia, your doctor might prescribe anticonvulsants in order to stop your trigeminal nerve from reacting to irritation. Muscle relaxants are also used, sometimes along with anticonvulsants to prevent nerve reactions.
Since over the counter pain medications are usually ineffective with trigeminal neuralgia, your doctor might prescribe a tricyclic antidepressant to help with the pain.
Once you understand the cause of your facial pain it’s easier to figure out how to cope with it. Talk to your dentist for help identifying what’s causing your facial pain and find out whether medication, relaxation, or orofacial trigger point therapy will be the best solution.