Schneck Medical Center

SUM 2015

Spirit of Women magazine is a national publication presented to women by hospitals and their physicians. The magazine provides up-to-date, evidence-based healthcare information and promotes our hospitals as leaders in women's health excellence.

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17 w w w. s p i r i t o f w o m e n . c o m S U M M E R 2 015 S P I R I T O F W O M E N SHUTTERSTOCK you're aggravating the pain by clenching your teeth at night. Be patient: Sometimes it can take months of working with a healthcare professional to find the combination of drugs that will provide the best pain relief for you, says Cowley. • Bite guards. Plastic oral appliances that fit over the upper or lower teeth are widely used in treatments for TMJ disorder, although evidence of their effectiveness isn't conclusive. • Physical therapy. This is an important part of the TMJ disorder treatment toolkit, says Julia Hurtado, program coordinator for WellStar Kennestone Outpatient Neurorehab, WellStar Health System, Marietta, Ga. Hurtado says the first thing physical therapists take into consideration with TMJ disorders is posture. Many of us live our lives tied to technology, spending too much time sitting with the head in a forward position, which can result in increasing stress on the TMJ. "If people have weakness in the muscles throughout the neck and chin, they just can't support that [good] posture for a long period of time," says Hurtado. "The muscles need to be at optimal tension, so they may need to be tightened or stretched." Botox injections also have been used to treat TMJ disorders, but there's not enough evidence to recommend them as reliable therapy, says Hurtado, although research into their effectiveness is continuing. Researchers are currently working to develop safer materials for use in TMJ disorder surgical treatments and are exploring stem cell development and tissue engineering of the jaw joint parts. Research is also continuing on developing more effective drug therapies for TMJ pain. "I think we're seeing a future where we're going to have targeted, personalized medicine, and it's not in the far-off future," predicts Cowley. • I magine not being able to sink your teeth into a big, juicy apple, sing with abandon or yawn freely without feeling pain. That's what it can be like if you suffer from a TMJ disorder. TMJ stands for temporomandibular joint, the hinge- like joint that connects your lower jaw bone (mandible) to bones in your skull and makes it possible to open and close your mouth and chew food. Although TMJ disorders affect 12 percent of the population, most people who experience an episode recover without any serious issues, says Terrie Cowley, president of The TMJ Association, based in Milwaukee. The symptoms—which can include jaw pain or tenderness, aches in and around the ear, problems with opening the mouth widely, clicking or popping sounds in the jaw joint, and locking or limited movement of the jaw—may disappear or lessen in a matter of weeks or months. ABCs OF TMJ What causes TMJ disorders? They can result from an injury to the jaw, and they're also linked to arthritis, stress and teeth grinding and clenching, but the root of the disorders isn't fully understood. Recent research has shown that nearly nine out of 10 TMJ disorder patients have one or more additional pain conditions such as chronic fatigue syndrome, headaches or fibromyalgia, so scientists are studying the possible links among these disease clusters. If you're bothered by nagging TMJ pain or have trouble opening or closing your mouth, start by checking with your regular doctor or dentist. Before diagnosing a TMJ disorder, your healthcare provider will want to rule out other causes of pain such as sinus or ear infections and to check for potentially more serious issues like tumors. Cowley also suggests visiting the National Institutes of Health website and downloading its brochure on TMJ disorders before you talk with your healthcare provider ( TMJDisorders.htm) . TREATMENT: LESS IS MORE Experts recommend taking a conservative approach to TMJ disorder treatment because surgical approaches aren't backed by long-term studies, and they often don't produce the desired results. Fortunately, a variety of noninvasive options can deliver relief to TMJ disorder sufferers: • Pain medications. Doctors or dentists may suggest over-the-counter medications or prescribe stronger pain relievers, anti-inflammatory drugs, muscle relaxants, antidepressants or sedatives, which can be useful if WAYS 1. Use a hot or cold pack. Almost three-fourths of those surveyed recently by The TMJ Association said this was the most helpful pain relief treatment. 2. Steer clear of hard, chewy and sticky foods. Go with softer options. 3. Don't chew gum or bite your nails. 4. Avoid extreme jaw movements; try putting your fst under your chin when you yawn. 5. Talk to your doctor, dentist or physical therapist about exercises you can do to help stretch and strengthen the jaw muscles. 6. Practice relaxation techniques to ease pain and soothe tense muscles. 6 to get TMJ pain relief

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