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Facial pain syndromes and trigeminal neuralgia

The NorthShore Neurological Institute (NNI) at Northwest Community Healthcare (NCH) leverages a collaborative team approach to treat the full spectrum of facial pain syndromes with minimally invasive techniques and the latest medical technology.

Defining terms

What is facial pain syndrome?

From headaches and toothaches to sinus headaches, many people experience facial pain at some point in their lives.

Trigeminal neuralgia is a very specific type of pain that is described as an electric pain on one side of the face that is made worse with chewing, eating, wind, and other triggers. This facial pain syndrome is often due to a blood vessel pressing on the key nerve (the trigeminal nerve) that can be effectively treated.

Trigeminal neuralgia can be effectively treated with medication, key hole (minimally invasive surgery) or focused beam radiation therapy. Our team has unique experience with trigeminal neuralgia and can design a specific treatment plan for you as a part of our multidisciplinary team approach.


Our specialists treat the full spectrum of facial pain syndromes, including:

  • Atypical facial pain
  • Glossopharyngeal neuralgia
  • Hemifacial spasm
  • Intractable vertigo
  • Refractory Meniere’s syndrome
  • Trigeminal neuralgia
  • Vascular compression surgery


The location of facial pain can differ based on the location of the affected nerve. Patients often describe the feeling as a sharp pain that feels like an electric shock within one or more portions of the face or jaw.

Episodes of facial pain can be triggered by:

  • Changes in air temperature
  • Chewing or eating
  • Seasonal changes (specifically fall and spring)
  • Talking


Diagnosing facial pain begins with a physical examination. Your physician will ask you about the frequency, length, type and location of your pain. As part of this examination, your physician may also rule out other common causes of facial pain by asking about your medical history, including oral health.

If it is determined further examination is needed, your specialist may recommend imaging such as a high-resolution MRI. Using this imaging, your care team can rule out possible causes such as tumors or multiple sclerosis and accurately determine the location of the artery or blood vessel putting pressure on the affected nerve.


Minimally invasive treatment options are available to help relieve trigeminal neuralgia and other facial pain syndromes.

Leading treatment options offered by NNI at NCH include:

Microvascular decompression surgery (MVD)

This minimally invasive procedure involves inserting a small cushion or pad between the vessel and the affected nerve that relieves the pressure on the nerve and helps minimize or eliminate the associated facial pain.

This can be a very effective treatment for trigeminal neuralgia, hemifacial spasm, and glossopharyngeal neuralgia.

Stereotactic radiosurgery

Stereotactic radiosurgery delivers precisely focused radiation to target the trigeminal nerve to treat facial pain caused by trigeminal neuralgia.

Ready to support you

At the NNI at NCH, you will have access to the latest diagnostic techniques, medication protocols and minimally invasive treatment options. More importantly, you will also have direct access to an entire team of neurological experts dedicated to helping find the best solution for you.

We prioritize collaboration – with our team of specialists, with your family and with you – to work together to reduce any anxieties and help you overcome facial pain.