TMJ Dysfunction

Most of us enjoy life without enduring constant or recurring pain. For others, being pain free is an infrequent luxury. The most popular players getting the attention in the “pain game” are usually the larger joints and spine. Back pain, hip, knee and shoulder pain steal the headlines but those folks suffering from TMJ find it every bit as painful, debilitating and frustrating. Basicly the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) connects your lower jaw to the upper jaw at the side of your head. When this joint moves, it enables you to talk, chew and yawn. TMJ dysfunction problems with the joint, ligaments and muscles around it may cause:

  • Pain that radiates through the face, jaw, neck or head
  • Headache
  • Limited movement or locking of the jaw
  • Painful clicking or popping in the jaw
  • A change in the way the upper and lower teeth fit together

Jaw pain may go away with little or no treatment if it was induced by only mild trauma or irritation. Treatment may include simple things you can do yourself, such as eating soft foods while avoiding hard or sticky foods. Try not to aggravate the situation by opening your mouth to wide or chewing gum. Apply ice packs to limit further irritation and reduce inflamation while the healing process takes place.Treatment for more severe cases may include TMJ manipulation, devices to insert in your mouth such as night guards to keep you from grinding your teeth or clenching your jaw at night. Occassionaly it may be suggested that the bite needs to be altered by grinding the teeth to change the way they contact each other. Surgery is sometimes indicated but rarely so. In 1937 Dr. Louis Schultz, both a dentist and medical doctor, published a paper in the Journal of the American Medical Association on the treatment of the subluxation of the TMJ. In this paper he described how common TMJ syndrome was, and that the traditional treatments of rest, appliances in the mouth, physical therapy and surgery were only partialy successful. He described a simple method of tightening and strenghtening the TMJ capsule by injection, which would later be known as Prolotherapy. In my practice, I find that stabilizing the joint using Prolotherapy techniques is a very successful way to treat the problems of TMJ and is often the missing link in achieving desired outcomes.

Many times the underlying cause of TMJ symptoms of pain, muscle spasm and clicking and popping of the jaw are do to weakness and instability of the joint itself. The temporomandibular is a very complex joint. It not only acts as a hinge joint for opening and closing the mouth but allows for the sideways movement of the lower jaw at the same time. This is accomplished by an intricate system of ligaments that hold the bones of the joint together, the tendons that attach jaw muscles to the bone and finaly by the fiberous capsule that surrounds the joint itself. Smooth and painless movement of the jaw depends on the ability of these components to seemlessly work in sync with each other. It’s easy to see that changing the structure of one or more of the component parts can greatly unbalance the interworkings of the joint, causing pain. Irritation in the joint capsule often causes muscle spasms which is one of the most common complaints. Along with the injury comes joint laxity, inflamation and swelling that contribute to more irritation and so on it goes. Breaking this cycle of irritation is dependent on strengthening and tightening the structure of the TMJ, in order to restore proper movement and allignment.

Prolotherapy is a highly effective method of treating chronic pain do to ligament laxity and weakened joints in all parts of the body. Injured ligaments, tendons and joint capsules are injected with a nutritive solution that directly stimulates the healing response to repair and strenghten them. Stabilization of weakened joints will remove the source of pain for many people. So wheather your dealing with pain from large joint dysfunction or the equally important TMJ, Prolotherapy may be the answer for you.

Robert Ellsworth, N.M.D.
Dr. Ellsworth has a practice in Scottsdale, Arizona.

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