About Facial Pain

If you or someone you know suffers from facial pain, OHSU’s Facial Pain Program offers hope. Over the past five years, we have successfully treated more than 1,000 adults with the facial nerve disorder called trigeminal neuralgia (TN). We also provide effective treatment for other types of facial pain, including orofacial pain (pain from the jaw muscles and joints).

Trigeminal neuralgia is a chronic (long-term) condition that causes extreme face pain. You can have pain that lasts for days, weeks or months at a time and then disappears for months or years. But even if your pain doesn’t last a long time, the intensity can be physically and mentally unbearable.

With TN, you may experience flashes of pain triggered by vibration or contact with the cheek. This can happen when you:

  • Shave
  • Put on makeup
  • Brush your teeth
  • Eat or talk

Anyone can be affected by trigeminal neuralgia, but it is most common in people older than 50 years of age.

Experts believe a blood vessel pressing on the trigeminal nerve causes trigeminal neuralgia. In some cases, TN may be related to another disorder such as multiple sclerosis (MS).

In addition to TN, face pain can be caused by:

  • Postherpetic neuralgia: pain from trigeminal herpes zoster (shingles) or herpes simplex (cold sores) outbreak
  • Injury to the face from a procedure, treatment or accident
  • Abscessed tooth: continuous throbbing pain on one side of your lower face that is irritated by eating or touching
  • Sinusitis or sinus infection: dull pain and tenderness around the eyes and cheekbones that gets worse when you bend forward
  • Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ): pain caused by problems with the joint that connects your lower jaw to your head
  • Migraine or cluster headache
  • Chronic muscle pain syndrome
  • Atypical facial pain: pain that has a mostly psychological (mental and emotional) rather than physiological (physical) cause