- When treating TMJ pain seems hopeless
- Surgery may not be your best solution
- TMJ pain may not be a jaw problem
I’ve seen a lot of patients with TMJ in my Wellington office in the past couple of months. Patients with TMJ often see a large drop in the quality of their life:
- “I feel like a baby because I can’t eat solid foods anymore”
- “There are times where I just have to stop talking because all I can think about is the pain”
- “That popping sound creeps me out and drives me nuts”
A lot of people will experience jaw pain for a day or two if they bite into a hard/chewy piece of food, but imagine if your life was plagued with jaw pain every single day. We underestimate the importance of our jaw, but it’s the piece of anatomy that allows you to enjoy some of the finest pleasures in life. Everything from kissing, to chewing, to a casual conversation with friends becomes a burden when your jaw fails to function.
Desperate Times and Desperate Measures
Severe cases of TMD can make people reach their breaking point quickly. Many of the patients that come to see me are usually looking at surgery as their next and final option because they don’t know what to do.
Even worse is when a patient spends tens of thousands of dollars for surgery but the pain doesn’t go away. Procedures that help to remove or replace a degenerated disc in the joint is sometimes performed to eliminate this pain sensitive piece of anatomy. The problem is that a degenerated disc can show up on imaging, but it isn’t necessarily the cause of the pain.
Unfortunately this happens more often than you might think, and it’s something that can make a patient with TMD hopeless if even surgery couldn’t get the job done.
This isn’t to say that surgery is not the answer, or that surgery can’t help, but we have to remember that TMD is a problem that science has yet to reveal all of the answers, and dental surgery is still working on figuring out what works and when it’s appropriate. Source
TMJ Pain May Not Be A Jaw Problem
There are many different causes for TMJ pain. They can range from abnormal jaw movement, tight jaw muscles, and degenerated discs. These can all be problem areas for a TMJ patient, but they all have something in common.
In fact, their commonality goes back to some of the same neurological mechanisms that contribute to neck pain and headaches. That’s why people with TMJ don’t just have jaw pain, they often have neck pain and headaches at the same time. It’s because almost all pain signals from the head and neck go through a small piece of spinal cord called the trigemino-cervical nucleus.
Sometimes Pain is a Computer Problem
So if you don’t have a medical background, some of that terminology might jump over your head. Instead of thinking anatomy, let’s talk about it like a computer.
- Tight and tense jaw muscles
- Inappropriate inflammation
- Central pain sensitivity
Can This Program Get Shut Off?
Fortunately your body’s program for pain can be re-written by changing the way these joints move.
A specialist like a neuromuscular dentist can use non-invasive methods to change the way your jaw moves and alter your bite with an orthotic.
Chiropractors that can correct the craniocervical region can create a dramatic impact on the pain programming in the brain.
That’s why both of these doctors frequently see similar patients, and will actually co-manage them between each other. Neck pain patients may get better relief from a dentist changing their bite, while some TMJ patients will get better relief from correcting their neck.
While we can’t say for certain which takes priority, but many patients can benefit from an interdisciplinary approach to care. Take the time to get a Complimentary Consultation to find out what method fits with you. You may even find that getting the entire jaw/neck complex fixed may be the key to solving your TMD.
Real Patient Testimonials
I can’t say enough how much my life has changed under Dr. Chung’s care. After 10 years of chronic pain and being dismissed by my neurologist, I came to Dr. C. He was caring, and really listened. After only 2 visits, I have already had a tremendous reduction in my pain! I feel like a new person.
I can't say how much Dr Jonathan Chung has given me back a full quality of life. Migraines was my daily focus, brought my on by a minor car accident few years before. I thought I was going to live with pain medications for the rest of my life. After seeing 2 neurologist prior I was convinced that was my life. But I never stop searching for holistic approaches which led me to Keystone Chiropractic. Thank you.
Dr.Chung has been a huge part of my journey to getting back to how I was before my dizziness and vestibular issues. Under his care I am now better than how I was before and I am able to live a normal life again. He is passionate about his patients and he’s such a great person. I’m so happy he’s my doctor! His staff is amazing as well!