Temporomandibular joint disorder, also known as TMJ, results in jaw pain and is much more common in those individuals with the conditions of fibromyalgia- or fibro- and/or chronic fatigue syndrome- or CFS- than it is in any other portion of the population.
It is believed that over 10 million people in the USA are currently suffering from the condition of TMJ. As with fibro, the condition occurs much more often in women than it does in men.
What is Temporomandibular Joint Disorder?
The temporomandibular joints are the joints that connect your skull and your jaw. These joints are stabilized by ligaments and muscles that help to open and close your mouth.
When you experience pain and/or tenderness in or around these joints, it is known as TMJ. The causes of this condition are not clear, but most experts do agree that trauma to the jaw could be the cause. Some of the other possible causes are as follows:
- Rheumatoid arthritis
The pain of TMJ can range from very severe to very mild and typically, the treatment of this condition depends upon how severe it is.
What is the Link Between Fibro and TMJ?
At this time, experts are not clear on the reason why individuals with the condition of fibro seem to be more likely to develop the condition of TMJ.
When the condition of TMJ occurs first, it is possible that the pain could be a contributing factor to the development of central sensitization.
Experts believe that central sensitization could be a contributing factor to the development of fibro or CFS. On the other hand, if fibro or CFS, it is possible that the TMJ is related to slack connective tissues.
Finally, experts have come up with a theory that all of these conditions could possibly fall under the umbrella term known as central sensitivity syndromes.
This means that while it is true that individuals with the conditions of fibro or CFS tend to feel pain more than others, it is also possible that they tend to suffer from painful conditions more often than others.
Most of the time, the condition of TMJ will be diagnosed and treated by a dentist. Just as with fibro, there is no single test that experts agree on.
Your dentist may check your jaw for clicking, popping, tenderness, and difficulty with opening/closing your mouth.
In addition, your dentist may take a mold and/or an x-ray of your mouth to find out how your teeth are fitting together.
In addition, it may be a good idea to speak with your regular physician to rule out any other possible causes for facial pain such as earaches or sinus headaches.
In addition, if you have the condition of myofascial pain syndrome, which is very common in those individuals with the condition of fibro, trigger points on your sternocleidomastoid muscles can result in pain in your jaw.
However, it is not clear whether or not these trigger points result in the condition of TMJ or just result in similar symptoms.
Symptoms of TMJ
The signs and symptoms of the condition of TMJ are very distinct from those of fibro or CFS. They include the following:
- Teeth that don’t fit together correctly
- Jaw pain
- Painful clicking in the jaw
- Difficulty opening/closing mouth
- Locking jaw
- Difficulty/discomfort chewing
Treatments for TMJ
In many cases, the signs and symptoms of TMJ will dissipate on their own. However, if you have signs and symptoms that persist, your physician may recommend an aggressive or conservative approach.
Some of the more aggressive approaches include the following:
Of course, due to the fact that these aggressive approaches are very controversial, you may wish to get a second opinion before going forward with them.
Some of the more conservative approaches include the following:
- Taking steps to reduce your stress
- No chewing gum
- Using ice packs
- No yawning wide
- Anti-inflammatory medications
Treatment for TMJ vs. Treatment for Fibro or CFS
Treatment for the condition of TMJ will typically not cause interference with the treatments for fibro or CFS.
However, individuals with sensitivity to extreme temperatures may have a difficult time using ice packs or recovering from an operation due to other conditions that are present.
In addition, it is thought that individuals with the conditions of fibro or CFS have sensitivities to specific types of anesthesia- however, this has not yet been proven.
Keep in mind that if you have several conditions and you are taking medications to treat each of them, speak with your physician and/or pharmacist regarding possible drug interactions.
What if You Have Multiple Conditions?
The pain associated with the condition of TMJ can make your signs and symptoms of fibro or CFS that much more difficult to deal with. Therefore, treatments for these conditions is that much more critical.
Medical researchers at the National Institutes of Health, or NIH, are currently conducting a variety of different studies to bring about a better understanding of the process of pain, including the pain related to TMJ and the possible commonalities between this disorder and those other ones that involve widespread pain.
It is quite possible that this research could lead to a better understanding of TMJ and how it is related to conditions such as fibro or CFS. A better understanding of these conditions can lead to better treatment options for all of them.
While it is possible to have TMJ if you have the condition of fibro or CFS- and vice versa- the truth is that you do not have to have one to have the other.
It is possible to have only one of these conditions. The best thing to do is find ways to deal with the signs and symptoms, as there is no cure for the condition of TMJ.
If you have multiple conditions, you should speak with your physician about the best way to approach all of them together.