Trigger Point Therapy for TMJ Disorder and Facial Pain
If you suffer from TMJ Disorder, chronic headaches, neck tension, or related symptoms, trigger point therapy may be the solution. Trigger points are muscle knots caused by tension. They can cause chronic pain and inflammation over a widespread area. When they develop in your masseter, the muscle that controls jaw movement, they can contribute to the development of TMJ Disorder. Jacksonville Dentist Dr. Lysandro Tapnio can teach you massages to alleviate tension in these areas. Trigger point therapy is non-invasive, and you can primarily perform the treatment on your own. Nevertheless, you should speak to a qualified practitioner before you attempt these specialized massage techniques.
Small Trigger Points Can Cause Large Scale Pain
A trigger point is a small, localized area of muscle tension. This rigidity will create a knot – a tiny, compacted area of muscle fiber, which is often obvious to the touch. Though limited in size, a trigger point can cause chronic radiating pain in areas connected by nerves. Often, trigger points can lead to significant discomfort in surprising areas. For example, a trigger point near your jaw can cause severe shoulder tension. Because trigger points are the source of extensive discomfort, treating these small areas can greatly improve your overall health and quality of life.
Trigger Points and Their Connection to TMJ Disorder
Trigger points can be a major factor in the development of TMJ Disorder. Your temporomandibular joints are the two hinges on either side of your jaw. Your powerful masseter controls the movement of these two joints. This muscle is one of the strongest in the body, but it comes under constant daily stress. Bruxism, missing teeth, dental misalignment, and chronic anxiety put pressure on this muscle. In turn, trigger points could develop. Alternatively, stress or facial injury could cause muscle tension.
Trigger points in your masseter can cause a wide variety of symptoms, including:
- Jaw pain and radiating facial pain
- Pain and stiffness in the neck, shoulders, and upper back
- Jaw stiffness
- Difficulty chewing
- A “stuck” jaw or the inability to open your mouth all the way
- Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
- Chronic headaches
Natural, Non-Invasive Trigger Point Therapy
Trigger point therapy is a holistic method of treating TMJ Disorder, tension headaches, and facial pain. With specific massage techniques, you can release these knots and ease overall tension. Dr. Tapnio will teach you the specific spots where trigger points develop. The spots you should target will depend on your symptoms and the location of your discomfort. He will also teach you special massage techniques for your masseter. In particular, the notch just below your ears can often harbor significant trigger points. By massaging this area, both inside and outside of your mouth, you can relieve your tension and reduce many of your TMD symptoms.
In some cases, trigger points in the roof of your mouth can lead to tension headaches, particularly behind your eyes and along your sinus passages. Dr. Tapnio can teach you massage techniques for these areas, as well. Although trigger point therapy is a self-administered treatment, you should not attempt to perform it without visiting our office first. This therapy requires very precise finger positions and movements. A qualified practitioner like Dr. Tapnio can show you proven ways to alleviate jaw tension.
Jaw Relaxation Is Key
After your massage, trigger points will reappear quickly if you continue to tense your jaw. Therefore, Dr. Tapnio can provide relaxation tips and lifestyle changes to further reduce tension. These techniques may include:
- Improving your posture
- Seeking help for chronic anxiety and stress
- Sitting with your mouth slightly parted
- Holding your phone with your hand, instead of cradling it between your shoulder and ear
- Dropping habits such as chewing ice, biting your nails, and sitting with your chin resting on your hand
- Avoiding gum and chewy foods that put a lot of strain on your jaw
Additional Treatments for TMD and Facial Tension
Trigger point therapy can be extremely effective. However, Dr. Tapnio will often combine these methods with additional treatments for more complete pain relief. Mouthguards, also known as occlusal splints, are one of the most common options. These appliances will realign your jaw while you sleep, reducing the pressure on your jaw joints. In some cases, Dr. Tapnio may recommend orthodontics. An uneven or unbalanced bite can put tremendous pressure on your jaw joints, and, in many cases, it can create trigger points. Braces and retainers can reposition your teeth to improve overall oral health. Finally, dental restorations may be a solution. Missing or worn teeth can also affect the force of your bite. Dr. Tapnio may recommend crowns, bridges, or dental implants to restore your dental function and correct the force along your dental arches.
BOTOX® can also be used therapeutically to treat migraine headaches and jaw pain. In 2010, BOTOX became the first and only FDA-approved treatment for the prevention of migraine headaches. This treatment consists of injecting BOTOX in several muscle areas of the head and neck. The treatment can last for 3 months to reduce the frequency and severity of headaches. Injections into facial muscles also have been reported to often relieve jaw muscle tension and pain for many patients, and in severe cases, to even minimize lockjaw. Depending on the circumstances, Dr. Tapnio sometimes uses lidocaine in conjunction with BOTOX to therapeutically relieve pain caused by muscle tension.
Alleviate Your Discomfort Today
To learn more about trigger point therapy and be evaluated for the causes of your pain and best solutions, contact our office today.