Many are not aware of the other illness that can accompany fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome. It is difficult enough to have fibromyalgia, but to have another whole separate illness is a challenge within itself. One of these illnesses is Temporomandibular joint and muscle disorders (TMJD) or also known as TMJ or TMD. This painful condition causes pain in the muscles and joints of the jaw that tends to spread into the face, neck, and shoulder. Many persons experience clicking and popping noises when chewing or opening the mouth. In severe cases, the mouth may become difficult to open wide.
The common causes of TMJD could explain why so many people with fibromyalgia suffer with this condition. These causes are stress, bruxism or clenching and grinding the teeth, and whiplash. Other possibilities include disk problems and medical conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis.
Scientists have now linked TMJD to other chronic sensory disorders such as fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, tension, and migraine headaches. The article, ‘Til Death do us part?’ by Carol Krucoff states the following:
“In these conditions, the affected body regions frequently appear normal, but the amount of pain and discomfort the patient reports is in disproportion of what doctors or dentists find on examination. New evidence suggests that pain sensitivity has a genetic component ...people with these conditions may have genetically based “disregulation” in their body’s pain processing system, which amplifies pain signals and pain perception. The psychological distress caused by enhanced pain perception in these patients–“and sometimes being told they are crazy,” William Maixner says–can lead to or aggravate depression and anxiety, which can exacerbate TMJD symptoms through a mechanism that’s not yet understood.” -Alternative Medicine, May 2007 -William Maixner, PhD, DDS, director of the Center for Neurosensory Disorders at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
I decided to quote this portion of the article because of the powerful point made about pain perception. This is in harmony with Dr. Patrick Wood’s scientific findings regarding the dopamine theory regarding pain perception in fibromyalgia sufferers. In his video, Show Me Where It Hurts, because of Dr. Wood's discovery of changes in the brain (meaning a lack of dopamine), pain signals are amplified. This discovery is an interesting connection to TMJ. This could explain why upon examination, TMJ is ruled out, but the patient still experiences symptoms of the disease. Regardless of whether TMJ is sensory or actual joint pain, here are a few tips to help manage the pain of TMJ:
* Do not chew gum or tough foods.
* Sleep on your back to reduce pain and keep the neck aligned.
* Relax your muscles.
* Avoid foods that increases stress-such as sugar/caffeine/alcohol/junk foods.
* Try applying ice or heat.
* Practice stress reduction activities.
If you ever wondered if there was a link between your jaw pain and fibromyalgia, well, the wondering stops here. Both are closely related, and with a proper diagnosis, the treatment that follows will make both fibromyalgia and TMJ more tolerable.