There are many types of nerve pain and this pain can be classified as acute or chronic—but what happens if wearing a mask causes spikes in pain? Integrated Pain Consultants is here to help you stay as safe and as comfortable as possible both during the pandemic and beyond.
One of the most common types of nerve pain that can make it unbearable to wear a mask is trigeminal neuralgia. Also known as TN, this nerve pain affects the trigeminal nerve in the face. This is the nerve that carries signals between the face and the brain. Many sufferers of TN cannot stand even very soft facial stimulation (such as putting on makeup or tooth-brushing), so a mask is simply not feasible.
Some with TN describe the feeling of putting on a mask as akin to being punched in the face. The pain is sharp and severe. Those who do manage to power through often have facial swelling. Unfortunately, if you go to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website and check for demographics who shouldn’t wear a mask, those with TN don’t seem to be included. Instead, it’s toddlers, those with a health condition who would struggle to breathe with a mask, and those who can’t take off a mask without help. So, what can someone with TN do?
Of course, staying at home whenever you can and only going places (like non-crowded outdoor areas) where you don’t have to wear a mask is important. However, now that we’re entering month six of the pandemic, that’s not always feasible. Some have taken to wearing a tee-shirt when they go out that reads something like, “Can’t wear mask due to medical condition.” Whether or not you choose to name TN is up to you, but be forewarned that TN severity varies greatly—you might encounter someone who knows someone with TN that doesn’t experience mask pain.
A better approach, now and moving forward, is to try to treat the cause of the pain. This will require seeing a pain specialist rather than your GP. Epidural steroid injections, radiofrequency ablation (RFA), and sympathetic nerve blocks might all be helpful. To learn more, schedule a detailed evaluation at Integrated Pain Consultants by calling (480) 626-2552.