People who have struggled with facial pain from a temporomandibular joint and muscle disorder (TMD) may feel as if they’re at their wits’ end. The symptoms of TMD, which is also commonly referred to as TMJ syndrome, can be maddeningly disruptive and can interfere with basic activities of daily living, such as eating or talking.
If you have exhausted conservative treatment options for TMD and you are still experiencing symptoms, it may be time to consider another therapeutic option in the form of botulinum toxin type A, or Botox®. At Hudson Medical + Wellness, we use the most up-to-date medical interventions to deliver effective treatments and pain relief to our patients. Here’s what you need to know about TMD, and how Botox® therapy may help.
The syndrome of temporomandibular joint (TMJ) dysfunction relates to the joint, located in front of each of your ears, that attaches your jaw bone (mandible) to the temporal region of your skull.
Ideally, you can use your TMJ continuously throughout the day without even being conscious of the demands you’re placing on it. However, sometimes, a person’s facial anatomy or physical habits can put a strain on the TMJ and cause pain. For example, many people carry their stress in their jaw, either clenching or grinding their teeth involuntarily. This can lead to inflammation of the temporomandibular joint from overuse, causing symptoms such as clicking, popping, or discomfort.
Medical conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis might predispose you to develop TMD. People in certain professions—such as scuba divers, violinists, and singers—may also be at higher risk of developing TMD because of their required jaw positioning.
TMD is the most common cause of facial pain and the second most common cause of chronic pain, after lower back pain. According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR), 5 to 12 percent of adults suffer from TMD. Unlike other types of pain conditions, TMD tends to be more common in young people, with the greatest likelihood of onset happening between ages 18 and 44. It also disproportionately affects the female gender, with experts noting that its prevalence is twice as high in women as it is in men.
Though facial pain is the most common symptom of TMD, sufferers can also experience headaches, earaches, ear ringing, tenderness of the TMJ, jaw locking, and clicking or popping sensations with jaw movements. Depending on the severity of one’s TMD, sufferers may also find that they have difficulty chewing because their jaw muscles are so tensed and fatigued. It is not unusual for people who struggle with TMD to also experience other types of chronic pain or mood disorders.
Clinicians are generally able to make a diagnose of TMD after taking a careful medical history and conducting a physical exam. Sometimes an imaging study, such as an X-ray, can help show arthritis of the temporomandibular joint, but this is not necessary for a diagnosis.
Once identified, TMD is generally treated using nonsurgical measures, including the following:
- Self-care measures such as posture changes, jaw exercises, warm or cold compresses, and sleep hygiene
- Avoidance of triggers (like gum chewing or nail-biting)
- Low-level laser therapy
- Occlusal splints (night guards) to help reduce tooth grinding
- Physical therapy aimed at the TMJ, including posture work and massage
- Behavioral therapy if disorders like anxiety or depression are contributing to the TMD
- Medications such as NSAIDs, tricyclic antidepressants, muscle relaxants, or Tylenol®
- Targeted joint injections or nerve blocks
However, many people still experience TMD symptoms after several months of treatment. For these refractory cases, surgery is an option, but medical researchers are learning that Botox® may be a less-invasive approach to help people with chronic symptoms.
If you are experiencing TMJ or facial pain, we are here to support you. At Hudson Medical + Wellness, we are delighted to partner with Dr. Thomas Pitts, a Board-certified neurologist, to offer comprehensive facial pain evaluation and treatment. Not only has Dr. Pitts specialized in neurology, but he has also subspecialized in clinical nerve physiology, which greatly enhances his ability to examine, diagnose, and treat conditions such as TMD that cause facial pain.
To learn more about our innovative approach to TMD management, schedule a consultation today.
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