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When there is pain in the face
Face pain is not a headache inside the skull, but pain in the temples, cheeks, temporomandibular joint, the area around the nose, mouth and eyes, the facial muscles and facial skin.
Facial pains sometimes overlap with headaches, but are not the same as them. Doctors distinguish between acute and chronic pain, which are localized on the face.
The pain can cover the entire face or just individual areas such as the chin or nose. They can occur in one half of the face or in both; they can expand on the neck, shoulders and upper back.
The complaints are often based on nerve disorders, i.e. the nerve pathways that run through the face. Pain that arises from such neuralgia occurs abruptly, cuts and hurts a lot. Touch, cold or light can trigger them.
Herpes diseases also cause facial pain. These are also known as facial roses, which itch and burn the inflamed skin. Dysfunctions in the masticatory muscles and the temporomandibular joint also cause severe pain.
In addition, toothache can shift to the face without immediately recognizing the focus of the infection. An inflammation of the roots in a molar tooth or a cyst on a wisdom tooth radiates onto the nerve pathways that run from the jaw to the ears on the corresponding half of the face.
Diseases that are not pain in the face in the narrow sense affect the face. These include eye infections as well as sinus infections. Complaints of the cervical spine and tension in the neck muscles also often shine on the face.
Facial pain can also be associated with disorders inside the head. These include brain tumors, strokes and migraines.
What does the doctor say?
If your face hurts briefly, you don't need to see a doctor. However, if the pain appears again and again and if it is sudden and intense, then see a doctor.
Even a general practitioner can quickly identify the causes from their medical history and specific complaints: Neuralgia, for example, manifests itself in very painful episodes, either without an external cause or in response to an external stimulus.
If the pain occurs when chewing or in the temporomandibular joint, this indicates a dysfunction in the muscles and joints there.
In professional jargon, chronic pain is called atypical facial pain - a description that medical professionals still do not know the cause.
If pain persists, the family doctor will refer the patient to ENT specialists, orthodontists, dentists, internists or even psychotherapists, depending on the illness.
There are three ways to treat nerve-related pain.
- A Teflon cushion between the vessel and nerve serves as a buffer to protect the nerve. The pain ends immediately after the operation.
- When the nerve node is heated, the pain also decreases, but often comes back after years.
- Radiation takes a long time to work. The pain usually goes away after months.
In the dysfunction of the temporomandibular joint or chewing muscles (craniomandibular dysfunction), the masseter muscle under the earlobe is particularly affected. Inflammation in the temporomandibular joint can also be extremely painful, but similar pain also results from psychological tension in the chewing muscles, including gritting teeth.
Often, the pain is greatest when the affected people wake up because they often crunch at night. A bite splint is used for treatment. This relieves the pressure on the joint and changes its position when biting. Physiotherapy helps when the chewing muscles are the problem. The same applies to a massage of the muscles.
Progressive muscle relaxation according to Jacobson helps as well as a learned handling of stress. Psychological or psychotherapeutic help may also be required. Antidepressants relax, but should only be administered in small doses.
If there is wear on the temporomandibular joint, it is advisable to apply cartilage remnants, and anti-inflammatories are advisable for infections. (Dr. Utz Anhalt)
Author and source information
This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.
Dr. phil. Utz Anhalt, Barbara Schindewolf-Lensch
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- Monks - Ärzte im Netz GmbH: www.neurologen-und-psychiater-im-netz.org (accessed: August 29, 2019), chronic facial pain particularly affects women
- Werner Hacke: Neurology, Springer, 2016