We have been asked this self same question this morning, and our response was:
We have been asked about it a number of times, and we have factsheets about both facial pain and neuropathic pain
There evidence underpinning a recommendation for acupuncture treatment is limited, but as you can see from the evidence button on the neuropathic pain sheet acupuncture has on several occasions been shown to be superior to the standard drug treatment, which suggests that it is worth trying.
In a previous response on the same question we said:
If you look through these various responses, however, you will see much the same advice in each one. The evidence is encouraging but far from conclusive, although it would be fair to say that the gold standard of research in western medicine, the randomised double blind control trial is not the most appropriate tool for assessing traditional acupuncture. However, there are a number of treatment possibilities within the paradigm of Chinese medicine, to do with blockages or deficiencies in the flow of energy, or 'qi' as it is called, which a practitioner might be able to identify and correct. Your best bet here is to contact a BAcC member local to you and seek a brief face to face assessment of whether they think acupuncture may be of benefit.
We have to say, however, that trigeminal neuralgia or neuropathy does appear to be a rather intractable condition, and we are usually relatively cautious about the prognosis when we take on patients in whom this is their main complaint. You will note that in one or two replies we have suggested that cranial osteopathy may offer another treatment option. The pathway of the trigeminal nerve is easily compromised by some of the physical structures around the tempero-mandibular joint, and subtle manipulation may offer possibilities.
We think that this remains the best advice that we can give. We have no doubt that acupuncture treatment can deliver temporary pain relief, and the amount of research which has been done to investigate this aspect of acupuncture's effects has been very considerable. However, as with all forms of pain relief, it is relief, not removal altogether which is what the treatment delivers, and even when treatment works the extent of the relief it can give and its sustainability do not seem to us to be sufficient to warrant making a recommendation to try to use acupuncture as a long-term pain relief option.
If you did decide to visit a practitioner local to you, we would recommend that you are very clear about the review periods at which you can assess how successful the treatment has been, and also that you try to establish very clear outcome measures, i.e. changes which you can actually measure rather than simply soundings based on how you feel on the day. With conditions like this there are good days and bad days, or more accurately bad days and worse days, and it helps to try to bring a measure of objectivity where possible to the proceedings.
From our perspective it is always possible to achieve a certain amount of pain relief in almost any condition, whether this be because of the acupuncture treatment or as our critics would have it some kind of placebo effect. The question is always how much pain relief and how sustainable this is. Clearly a treatment which works for twelve hours is not going to be very useful, although we have known cases where people have targeted treatment at times when they are going to need to be on top form for athletic events or important meetings. If the effects last longer but never quite increase in depth or duration then it may become a financial consideration, i.e. if someone can afford weekly treatment indefinitely because that is how long it lasts then having deep pockets is an advantage (although we have known members offer reductions for this kind of maintenance). Most of us, though, do not like to see someone remaining in pain for months, and we tend to look closely at other options if what we are doing isn't really taking off. Cranial osteopathy is one possibility, but practitioners will be aware of many other forms of treatment in their areas who might offer a useful solution.
If you want to trace a practitioner near you the simplest way is to use the postcode search facility on our home page www.acupuncture.org.uk