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The Connection Between TMD and Chronic Overlapping Pain Conditions

For some people, when it comes to pain, it doesn’t rain but pours.

They don’t just have pain in one place; it’s in multiple places on the body. And it’s constant.

In recent years, doctors have discovered that many pain conditions are linked. In fact, researchers now label these conditions as “chronic overlapping pain conditions” or COPC for short.

Affecting mostly women of childbearing age, scientists aren’t sure of the exact link between them — but they believe that treating one may help mediate the impact of others.

(RELATED: Monitoring Your TMJ Disorder With Your Smartphone is in the Future)

Is TMD Considered COPC?

Conditions that fall under the COPC umbrella must meet a couple of criteria. First, the condition must be considered chronic;  it must last for at least several months without significant improvement using standard treatment. Second, the condition must commonly occur with other pain conditions.

Temporomandibular joint disorders (TMD) does meet both of these criteria.

Most cases of TMJ are temporary and resolve on their own with some home care, but others may last for months or years. When people have these long-lasting forms of TMJ, they often experience other pain conditions at the same time.

Research shows that as much as 75% of people with these types of TMJ have overlapping COPCs. And it’s not uncommon for people to have multiple COPCs with TMJ. In fact, 8% of people with TMJ have four or more COPCs.

The COPCS most likely to overlap with TMJ are:

  • Migraine (30%)
  • Chronic lower back pain (30%)
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (24%)
  • Fibromyalgia (22%)
  • Vulvodynia (17%)
  • Interstitial cystitis (13%)
  • Endometriosis (8%)
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome (8%)

Of course, we recognize migraines immediately as a common symptom linked to TMJ. We can clearly point to the mechanisms that link TMJ to migraines. For the others, the link is less clear.

(RELATED: Migraine and TMD: The Connection That Should Not Be Ignored)

How Will Treating TMD Help?

So how are all these pain conditions linked? One of the theories is that the conditions are linked by central sensitization–the pain centers of the brain become oversensitive. They begin to register sensations that aren’t pain as if they were pain. The effect is that even a gentle touch can become painful.

This adds more urgency to getting TMD treatment when the condition first appears. The longer TMJ goes untreated, the more likely it is to cause sensitization and therefore potentially trigger other COPCs. We already know that rapid treatment of TMD is beneficial because it protects the jaw joint from degenerative disease that may require more invasive treatment down the road.

So, although it is reasonable to wait a week or two to see if TMD will resolve on its own, it is otherwise a very good idea to get treatment for your TMD as soon as possible.

TMD Treatment That Works

Are you looking for TMD treatment in Pasadena? Let us help. Please call 626-773-8333 or schedule an appointment for a free consultation online.

(RELATED: FAQ: Can CBD Oil Help My TMJ Pain?)

About Pasadena Pain Management

Pasadena Pain Management offers pain management treatment Pasadena, CA. Our office is conveniently located with extended hours to meet your needs. At Pasadena Pain Management, we offer the exclusive TruDenta treatment therapy — a highly specialized form of care that involves cutting-edge dental technology, without needles or injections. Patient satisfaction is our top priority and we strive to provide the exceptional, affordable pain management care and personal touch that lead to lasting relationships. A smiling patient is our greatest reward and we look forward to keeping our patients happy and pain free.