Chronic Head and Neck Pain Management

Our oral medical history can help shed light on chronic pain and other symptoms, says Dr. Nicholas J. Meyer.



Chronic pain is a debilitating, life-altering event. Pain anywhere in the body is designed to tell us that something is out of balance. There are at least 50 different symptoms that are associated with teeth being out of balance with the muscles and jaw joints. This is often lumped into the category incorrectly called TMJ. A more appropriate term is a craniomandibulocervical disorder (CMCD). Diverse symptoms such as headaches, pain behind the eye, tenderness of the scalp, balance problems, misshapen faces and numbness of the arm are just some of the 50 symptoms associated with CMCD.

One of the most common ways to diagnose these maladies is with an oral history, physical examination of the oral, facial and cervical structures and observing how the jaw moves through space when the person is speaking sibilant-sounding words, such as “house”, “judge” and “zebra”. It is the discrepancy between where the jaw sits with the teeth together when closed and where the jaw moves when speaking those words.

The discrepancy sets up a chain reaction of trouble in the musculature of the neck and back. There is almost always a tightening of the muscles that results in trigger points called “knots”. These must be acknowledged and treated along with the improper jaw posture. Approximately 90 percent of the time, an individual is suggested to have a precision bite appliance constructed that will assist in giving balance to the muscles of the head and neck while aligning the lower jaw to have a better posture.

Complimentary services to the bite appliance might be the use of ultra-low frequency transcutaneous electric nerve stimulation trigger point injections into the joint to flush out toxin and trigger point injections to rapidly break up muscle tension and the sphenopalatine ganglion blockade. This last one alone can give almost instantaneous relief from multiple types of pain that visit the head and neck area.

Other causes of chronic pain or distress can be attributed to teeth that have had root canal therapy in patients that have a persistent awareness or discomfort. These are evaluated on an individual basis and will often respond well to the use of medical-grade ozone. The relief is quite quick, often in about two days from application, and may need a follow-up treatment in two weeks or so, dependending on the individual.

Back pain is also frequently tied in with either of these issues and can respond with the same type of care working with either a chiropractor, osteopathic physician or CranioSacral therapist. Acupuncture can also be a great adjunctive service.

Once the head structures become better balanced, many of the body responses clear up on their own without drugs. We have become a society in which drugs are the easy solution to mask pain. This is why a more holistic approach to health is so beneficial, because we look for the true cause of the issue, instead of just treating the symptom.

Dr. Nicholas J. Meyer, owner of Millennium Dental, has been in practice for 38 years and has a keen interest in the care and treatment of the chronic pain sufferer. For more information, visit MillDental.com.

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