This topic may be very delicate to discuss for many reasons. Among them, suggesting that meditation may be helpful to those of us who suffer from TN or ATN may seem to lend credibility to those ill-informed healthcare practitioners and laymen to those who would suggest that our pain is psychosomatic. Knowing what it is like to experience this condition, I would not dare to even appear to take the side of those who say, "it's all in your head". Also delicate is appearing as though I believe that those of us on narcotic pain killers do not really need them. That opiates and benzodiazepines are a crutch of some kind and with proper self-discipline are not needed is patently false. I believe that each of us is truly in pain and has a right to any reasonable drug that helps. My knowledge of my own condition/treatments and the challenges I have faced since becoming ill have left me firmly entrenched in the battle to be taken seriously and treated humanely with proper medication. (Along with my initial disclaimer, I must also include that I am a terrible, sometimes incoherent writer who is further hindered by an increase in her Tegretol dose. If I am not making sense, I hope the reader will forgive me if they can tolerate reading this at all.)
That being said, and in the interest of helping others, I believe that meditation has been beneficial to me during my most recent flare of ATN. I have noticed that when my pain starts to worsen, if I am able to completely stop everything that I am doing and fully relax my muscles (especially my facial muscles), the pain is seemingly arrested and does not go into a full-blown, paralyzing attack that so many of us have grown accustomed to.
I learned to meditate 20 years ago as a teen, relaxing every muscle in my body as I simply focused on counting my breaths. The face was most often the last area I paid attention to as I started my exercises with my toes and worked upward, eventually releasing the tension in my jaw, cheeks, temples, and forehead before reaching the final area of focus: the crown of my head. The face, for me, was the hardest area to completely relax as it is hard for me to simply let my jaw go slack and hang open. Allowing my eyes and eyelids to simply rest presented further difficulty as it is tempting to try to force them to stay shut. I cannot say that I ever mastered the art of meditation but I did practice daily for about a year and then on and off in the many years since then. Among other things, having the ability to relax my body because it had been so conditioned has been useful to me in combating such problems as anxiety-related issues. I am very glad that I picked up this skill and have practiced it enough to see real benefits.
Now I am 35 and have dealt with (and am currently suffering from) classic TN on one side of my face and ATN on the other side for two years now. ATN in the right side of my face is the most recent and enduring manifestation. Meditation may be helpful, I realized recently, for at least a couple reasons. (All of these reasons may simply be conjecture but I believe there may be some credibility behind them. Please chime in and correct me where I am completely off-base. I am only guessing.) First, it is quite common, I noticed, both in my reading and in my experiences, for the (A)TN sufferer to experience a respite from pain while asleep and for a short period after awakening. There is a commonality between what is experienced during sleep and during deep meditation: that is, the muscles of the body are completely relaxed. Second, I take opiate pain relievers and benzos in addition to my Tegretol and noticed that, although these medications do not alleviate my pain, they do help me to relax and not focus so heavily on the pain. The cycle of pain which makes me tense up and cause more pain, which in turn causes me to tense up, etc. is arrested thereby causing me to suffer a lot less. The theme is the same: relaxation equals less pain. Therefore, I concluded that I should begin to practice meditation to promote relaxation wherever possible to aid in pain relief and, much to my delight, it helps considerably.
Now, when I feel the first twinges of pain, I stop, lie down, and enter a deep state of relaxation. This state can be difficult if I am already cringing in agony (which, unfortunately, is still all-too-often the case but I am getting better about it), so I attempt to catch it at the first tiny electrical twinges or fasciculations. It is unfortunate that I had to lose my job in order to afford the luxury of being able to halt all activity at the slightest hint of pain, but that is something that I have accepted and I know many share that experience. Having the capacity to at least reign in some of the arbitrary, horrific pain and not feel completely at the whim of the "demon" helps me to not feel as helpless and hopeless.
I hope that what I have just shared about my experiences will be of some use to somebody who is suffering. My heart goes out to everybody who shares this condition.