What is a Trigeminal Nerve?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 13 April 2017
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The trigeminal nerve is the fifth nerve in the cranium. Also known as the fifth vertebrate peripheral nerve, trigeminal nerves are responsible for processing sensation from the head to the brain. When the nerve does not function efficiently, the result can be a great deal of pain at various points around the face, sometimes so excruciating that the individual is unable to deal with the pain without some type of medication.

In order to process sensation properly, the trigeminal nerve will interface with the sensory nerves located around the face. This allows the nerve to collect and transmit data from the nerves in the jaw, chin, cheeks, and forehead to the brain. The transmission is instantaneous, allowing for a quick response to all sorts of stimuli across the face, include extremes of heat and cold, as well as touch.

While the nerve does relay information regarding sensation or feeling from the head, this type of cranial nerve is not involved in the actual process of movement or motion. However, the trigeminal nerve is involved in triggering motor functions with the muscles of the jaw. It is this trigger that activates the process of mastication, allowing individuals to thoroughly chew food before swallowing.

When the trigeminal nerve is compromised in some manner, a condition known as trigeminal neuralgia results. This health condition essentially creates a situation where sudden and unanticipated episodes of pain erupt at any area of the face or jaw that is involved with the nerve. The areas affected are often extremely sensitive to even the lightest touch. This can create situations where performing even the simplest of tasks, such as shaving along the jawline, can become extremely uncomfortable.

These quick but very painful episodes can last anywhere from a few seconds to several hours, depending on the amount of trauma that the trigeminal nerve has experienced. Because the pain is so intense, many people are unable to withstand the episodes without the aid of some type of medication to numb the nerves associated with the area. There are also examples of people suffering with damage to the fifth nerve using chiropractic manipulation as a way of easing the burning sensations and frequent bursts of stabbing pain.

In advanced cases, medication or the use of chiropractic services may only be a temporary solution. When that is the case, surgery is often employed to repair the damage to the trigeminal nerve or at least limit the ability of the nerve to transmit pain sensations to the brain.


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