The following is taken from the “MedBroadcast” web site. Trigeminal Neuralgia is classified as a chronic
neuropathic pain and so the information in this article applies.
Chronic pain is a significant problem in Canada affecting up to 30% of the population. It is
usually defined as pain that lasts longer than normal (usually 3 to 6 months) for an illness or injury and
can be caused by medical problems such as cancer, diabetes, arthritis, disc herniations, fibromyalgia and
of course TN. Treating chronic pain remains one of the most challenging issues of medicine today.
Unfortunately, there is no single cause of chronic pain, which can make assessment, diagnosis, and
treatment difficult.
Chronic pain is classified based on the source of the pain. Neuropathic pain is caused by
damage to nerves, the brain, or spinal cord. Nociceptive pain is caused by continued tissue damage due
to certain medical conditions (e.g., cancer, arthritis, lupus). Some types of chronic pain are a
combination of both of these, while for other types of pain, no cause can be found. Nociceptive pain
usually responds well to traditional pain medications, but neuropathic pain does not respond as well.
However, neuropathic pain does respond to other medications such as certain antidepressants and
antiseizure medications.
Chronic pain often has a physical component, but psychological factors are also involved.
Factors which perpetuate pain and disability include physical deconditioning (e.g., loss of muscle tone
and strength) and the inappropriate use of medications. Other equally important factors that potentially
compound the problem are an inability to deal with stress, depression, and anxiety. Chronic pain also
brings about changes (in both the brain and spinal cord) in the way pain signals are processed. As the
vicious cycle of pain and disability deepens, irritability, anxiety, frustration, and depression can worsen,
as do problems with memory and concentration. Chronic pain can also lead to social withdrawal and