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Atypical Facial Pain

What Is Atypical Facial Pain?

Atypical facial pain (AFP) was an umbrella term used to categorize all facial pains that didn’t mimic the classic symptoms of trigeminal neuralgia — severe pain that could last seconds or minutes and be brought on by triggers. In recent years, however, AFP has come to describe facial pain with no known cause.

The exact source of AFP is unknown and therefore thought to be psychologically based. A few risk factors that seem to lead to AFP include:

  • Behavioral problems

  • Depression

  • Unresolved conflict

  • Other psychological issues


AFP symptoms revolve around pain in the face. The specifics of pain experienced by those suffering from AFP include:

  • Facial pain — The pain may be sporadic, but in many cases it is constant. Some sort of trigger, such as moving, eating, wind or being touched, frequently brings it on. The pain produces burning, stabbing, shooting or electric-shock sensations and may result in itching or tingling.

Treatment Options

In most cases, a computed tomography and/or magnetic resonance imaging scan will be performed to rule out other conditions causing pain. Should there be no visible cause of the pain, surgery is rarely beneficial.

Available treatment options that currently provide relief include:

  • Medication — Pain-reducing, anticonvulsant and antidepressant medications have some success, as do gels and creams that include local anesthetic.

  • Therapy — Done at home or in a clinical setting, therapy may include practicing relaxation techniques or meditation or undergoing cognitive behavioral therapy.

  • Acupuncture — An acupuncture specialist places needles at appropriate pressure points to relieve pain.

Ready for an Appointment?

If you're experiencing signs or symptoms of atypical facial pain, schedule an appointment or call 800-TEMPLE-MED (800-836-7536) today.

Learn more about our doctors and care team who diagnose and treat atypical facial pain.