Glossopharyngeal Neuralgia

Glossopharyngeal neuralgia (GN) is a rare pain syndrome that affects the glossopharyngeal nerve (the ninth cranial nerve that lies deep within the neck) and causes sharp, stabbing pulses of pain in the back of the throat and tongue, the tonsils, and the middle ear.


  • Intermittent severe lancinating pain in the back of throat and inside of the ear on one side
  • Pain free intervals in between attacks
  • Can be associated with episodes of low heart rate or fainting spells


Glossopharyngeal neuralgia is usually the result of:

  • A blood vessel pressing on the glossopharyngeal nerve (9th cranial nerve)
  • Tumor (rare)

Risk Factors

There are no known risk factors for the condition


Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Tests may include:

  • Complete examination of the oropharynx may be performed
  • Images of the head may be taken with an MRI or CT scan


There are no current guidelines to prevent glossopharyngeal neuralgia

If you need help with any of these conditions, please contact us to get help!

Or call 206.661.6100 for immediate assistance


Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you.

  • Initial treatment may include anticonvulsant medications such as carbamazepine or gabapentin
  • Surgical microvascular decompression is an effective long term treatment
  • Glossopharyngeal rhizotomy is sometimes used


David Newell, M.D. talks about the steps to perform a microvascular decompression of the glossopharyngeal or 9th cranial nerve for severe throat and ear pain from glosspharyngeal neuralgia.

Warning: this video contains graphic depictions of neurosurgery.

Glossopharyngeal Neuralgia is a rare pain syndrome that affects the glossopharyngeal nerve. For help with symptoms, pain, risks, and treatment contact us or see Seattle Neurosciences’ website.

Dr. Newell was born in Boston, MA and attended Case Western Reserve University medical school. He then completed his residency in neurosurgery at the University of Washington, including one year in London at St. George’s medical school. Dr. Newell is the co-founder of the Swedish Neuroscience Institute and founder of the Seattle Neuroscience Institute.