EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT TMJ AND TRIGEMINAL NEURALGIA: Definition, Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT TMJ AND TRIGEMINAL NEURALGIA: Definition, Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

CAUSES OF FACIAL PAIN
Facial pain is rather common, and it can affect any part of the face. Although it is often caused by headaches or injuries, there are numerous other causes including oral infections, nerve conditions, and jaw or dental problems. This type of pain can originate from a particular region of the face or radiate from another part of the head.

 

There are four different types of facial pain, each with a different on root cause.

* Nerve Pain: Also referred to as neuralgia, this type of facial pain is associated with conditions that affect the facial nerves.

* Dental Pain: This type of facial pain is associated with teeth and gum problems.

* Vascular Pain: This type of pain results from issues affecting the blood vessels and blood flow.

* Temporomandibular Pain: This pain is associated with the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) and the jaw muscles.

 

So, what causes these different types of pain?

i) Injuries

Injuries are some of the most common causes of facial pain. Facial injuries such as falls, impacts, cuts, blows, and others can damage facial nerves and lead to facial pain. In some cases, surgical procedures performed on the face, for example, cosmetic procedures, can damage the nerves and lead to facial pain. Facial pain caused by injuries is often characterized by numbness, tingling, and, in some cases, paralysis in and around the affected region.

ii) Headaches

Headaches are another common cause of facial pain. It is important to note that there are different types of headaches, most of which can lead to facial pain. Here are some types of headaches that can lead to facial pain. Migraine headaches: facial pain is a common symptom of migraine headaches. These types of headaches are usually sudden and severe and often affect only one side of the face. Some people with migraines report experiencing an aura of blinking lights just before the onset of pain.

 

Cluster headache: This is a sudden type of headache that tends to cause intense pain around the eyes, temple, and nose. This pain can radiate to the back of the head. Apart from severe pain, other symptoms include red, swollen eyes and a runny nose. People with cluster headaches also have increased sensitivity to light, sound, and certain smells.

iii) Sinusitis

This condition arises when your sinuses get infected. Sinuses are small cavities found behind the nose near the cheekbones. Sinusitis is associated with symptoms such as a runny nose and pain and pressure around the nose and forehead.

iv) Sialadenitis

Sialadenitis refers to the infection of the salivary glands, particularly the submandibular gland found under the chin and the parotid gland found in front of the ear. This can lead to pain around your cheek and chin. Symptoms of sialadenitis include fever, swelling on one side of the face, and foul pus that drains into your mouth.

v) Tooth Abscess

This occurs when bacteria infect your teeth, gums, or jaw bone. This causes pus build-up creating pressure that can lead to a throbbing pain that radiates to your jaw, face, and neck.

vi) TMJ disorders

The temporomandibular joints connect the lower jaw to the skull. These joints are found on both sides of the head, just below the ears. The term "TMJ Disorders" is used to refer to conditions that lead to pain and movement difficulties in the jaw joint and muscles. This pain can radiate to your face leading to facial pain.

vii) Trigeminal Neuralgia

This refers to a chronic pain disorder that affects the trigeminal nerve located at the base of the brain. It is often caused by compression of the trigeminal nerve, underlying medical conditions such as multiple sclerosis, and nerve damage. People with this condition often experience pain on one side of the face, but it can also affect both sides.

This article focuses on two main causes of facial pain: TMJ disorders and Trigeminal Neuralgia. In the rest of this article we will discuss in detail everything you need to know about these two conditions.

TMJ vs TRIGEMINAL NEURALGIA

What is TMJ?

As we discussed earlier the temporomandibular joint attaches your lower jaw to the temporal bones of your skull. The temporomandibular joints are found in front of both ears. They allow you to move the jaw up and down and side to side; which helps you to chew, talk, and yawn.

TMJ disorders, otherwise known as temporomandibular disorders (TMD), refer to issues that affect the jaw and muscles in your face that control the temporomandibular joint causing pain.

TMD often affects people aged between 20 and 40, and it can cause pain on one or both sides of the face. The symptoms can be temporary or last for many years.

Causes of TMJ Disorders

It is difficult to establish the exact causes of TMJ disorders. However, dentists believe that the pain may be caused by a combination of factors such as injury, genetics, or arthritis. Symptoms arise from issues affecting the muscles of the jaw or parts of the temporomandibular joint. With this in mind, here are some common causes of TMD.

* Injuries to the joint, jaw, or neck and head muscles, for example, due or a heavy blow or whiplash.

* Clenching the teeth, which can put pressure on the joint

* Tightening the facial and jaw muscles, for example, due to stress

* Movement of the disc between the ball and the socket of the temporomandibular joint

 

Symptoms of TMJ

The common symptoms of temporomandibular joint disorders include:

* Pain or tenderness in the jaw, particularly at the area of the joint. This pain can also affect the neck and shoulders and in and around the ears when chewing, speaking, and opening the mouth wide.

* Difficulties opening the mouth wide

* Grating and popping sounds in the joint whenever you open or close your mouth or when you chew

* A feeling of fullness in the ear accompanied by ringing or popping sounds in the ear

* Swelling on the side of the face

* Headaches

* Blurred vision

* Difficulties chewing

* Jaws getting locked in the open or closed position

* Stiff or sore jaw or neck muscles

* Facial pain, oral pain, cheek pain, and numbness in the chin

* Muscle spasms in the jaw

* Vertigo

 

What is Trigeminal Neuralgia?

Trigeminal Neuralgia, also referred to as tic douloureux, is a sudden and severe facial pain originating from the trigeminal nerve. Described as an intense, stabbing, and electric shock-like pain, it is considered one of the most excruciating pains that one can experience. This is the most common cause of facial pain, especially among people above the age of 50.

It typically affects only one side of the face, and it is normally concentrated on the lower part of the face. Sometimes it can affect both sides of the face, but it only does so one side at a time.

 

Causes of Trigeminal Neuralgia

Trigeminal neuralgia has numerous causes. However, by far, the most common cause of TN is the compression of the trigeminal nerve. The trigeminal nerve is responsible for transmitting pain and touch sensations from your face, teeth, and mouth to your brain.

When a healthy artery or vein presses on the part of the nerve inside the skull, over time, the pulse of the blood vessels can wear or damage the protective insulation of the nerve known as the myelin sheath. This leaves the nerve exposed and highly sensitive.

People with underlying conditions such as multiple sclerosis have a high risk of developing trigeminal neuralgia since this disease causes the nerve's myelin sheath to deteriorate.

In some rare cases, this condition can be caused by the compression of the nerve by a tumor.

Oral surgery, sinus surgery, and facial trauma can injure the trigeminal nerve resulting in neuropathic facial pain.

Symptoms of Trigeminal Neuralgia

* Sudden attacks of intense stabbing pain lasting anywhere from a few seconds to 2 minutes

* Pain that affects the teeth, lower jaw, upper jaw, cheek and very rarely occurs in the forehead or eye

* Intense flashes of pain triggered by vibration or contact with the face or cheek, for example, when shaving, brushing, talking, drinking, washing the face, or being exposed to wind.

* Constant throbbing or burning sensations between episodes of intense pain * Regular episodes of severe pain for days or weeks at a time

* Periods of complete relief may be experienced, lasting months and even years * Increased anxiety due to the possibility of pain recurrence

 

HOW STRESS & ANXIETY CAN MAKE THESE CONDITIONS WORSE

How stress and anxiety affect TMJ

Stress and anxiety help your body deal with difficult situations, however if you experience them for a long period of time, they can be detrimental to your overall health. Chronic or long-term stress can cause symptoms such as headaches, insomnia, muscle pain, and are commonly associated with teeth grinding. Constant grinding and clenching lead to jaw misalignment and chronic neck and muscle strain, thus causing and maintaining temporomandibular joint disorders.

How Stress and Anxiety affect Trigeminal Neuralgia

Stress has been found to aggravate trigeminal neuralgia. Even though we don't understand exactly why this happens, it is commonly believed to be related to the association between stress and pain. Numerous studies have revealed that recurring pain often causes stress-induced heightened pain sensitivity, which means that the body becomes even more sensitive to pain than normal. People who suffer from trigeminal neuralgia will experience intense pain. When they have periods of relief, their increased anxiety levels due to the fear of pain returning can trigger the onset of another attack.

 

TREATMENT OPTIONS

The treatment for trigeminal neuralgia begins with medications; if these fail,(and they often do) you need to explore other treatment options.

Surgery

Surgery is often the 'go-to' option after less invasive treatment options for trigeminal neuralgia have been exhausted. This is usually done after the diagnosis has been confirmed with an MRI scan or other neuro-imaging test. Surgical procedures are meant to stop the blood vessel from compressing the nerve or removing the nerve that is causing the pain. Types of surgical procedures include Microvascular Decompression (MVD), Stereotactic Radiofrequency Lesion (RFL), Stereotactic Radiosurgery, and Rhizotomy.

 

These surgical procedures are associated with some common and unpleasant side effects, such as decreased hearing, facial numbness, facial weakness, stroke, and other complications. This is particularly true for microvascular decompression. Facial numbness has been found to be the most common side effect in all procedures. There is also the very real possibility of pain recurrence.

Chiropractic Care According to recent research, chiropractic care can be effective in treating trigeminal neuralgia. The merging of the trigeminal nerve and the first three cervical nerves in the spine can cause head pain in the trigeminocervical nucleus. Considering that the upper cervical vertebrae stimulate these nerves, chiropractic adjustments applied to these vertebrae can help to alleviate trigeminal neuralgia pain. 

 

Nutrition and Supplements

The nutritional approach to treating trigeminal neuralgia and neuropathic facial pain is aimed at helping the body restore the damaged myelin sheath. Vitamin B-12 plays a crucial role in the production of myelin; hence, it is often administered in the treatment of TN.

Herbs

Herbal medicines are normally used to treat underlying weaknesses in the myelin sheath itself. The idea behind herbal treatments is to strengthen the myelin sheath, thus reducing the risk of TN recurrence.

Homeopathy

Homeopathy is one of the most preferred forms of therapy treatments for trigeminal neuralgia. Homeopathy treats TN as a constitutional disease in that it has something to do with your physical, psychological, and emotional makeup. Thus, it applies the principles of holistic medicine and is aimed at boosting the body's own healing and defense systems. It is aimed at restoring health and balance in the body.

Biofeedback

This is a treatment technique aimed at helping you to learn to control some of your body's functions to improve a health condition. In a biofeedback session, your body is connected to electrical sensors that provide information about your body. With this information, you make certain changes to help reduce the pain associated with TN. Essentially, it helps you to have more control over your body.

MANAGING PAIN TO GET YOUR LIFE BACK

Trigeminal Neuralgia is considered one of the most painful, if not the most painful condition. Temporomandibular joint disorders can also cause a great deal of pain and discomfort. These conditions can have a great impact on your quality of life. They can result in issues such as isolation, weight loss, and depression.

People suffering from these conditions tend to avoid doing certain things as a result of fear of the recurrence of pain. They can stop brushing their teeth, washing their faces, and partaking in other hygiene practices in fear of triggering the pain. Numerous studies have found that trigeminal neuralgia can significantly affect one's social relationships, interactions, and ability to play their role in the community.

You shouldn't let your life be slowed down due to facial pain. There are many available effective treatments for TMJ and Trigeminal Neuralgia. While medications and surgeries have long been associated with adverse side effects, there are more natural and effective modes of treatments that are proving to be very helpful among people with facial pain conditions.

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