Non-Surgical Diagnosis and Management of Head and Neck Pain

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It is unfortunate that so many people suffer the pain of headaches along with neck and back pain, but there are ways to manage. The first step is diagnosis- i.e., figure out what is really going on. For so many people, craniofacial pain is a real problem. If the discs in the jaw joints are displaced this can be one source of serious pain. This is comparable to a slipped disc in your lower back. A slipped disc in the jaw joint can wreak havoc with your day-to-day activities. So many people suffer from searing headaches along with neck pain. The use of Advil or Tylenol and seeing a physical therapist or massage therapist becomes part of the management of temporary relief and learning how to live with the pain and discomfort. It really should not be like that.

As part of temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD), the diagnostic process of an MRI and CBCT x-ray assists with figuring out the real source of the problem. The x-ray of the cranial bones (bones of the skull) is a three-dimensional viewing of the skull and cervical spine (C-1 to C-7). When the cranium is out of alignment, which shows up in 90 % of the population, the asymmetry can cause pain. In addition, the cervical spine can cause pain from being compressed. An MRI of the jaw joints will show where the discs are. Displaced discs can cause additional pain by being pushed or ‘pinching’ nerves and blood vessels in the skull. This is where the cause of many headaches originates. It does, however, take a skilled dentist and physician to read the MRI and determine the severity of those displaced discs.

After determining the cause, the next steps are to fix the problem. Surgical intervention is never the first option for most. A continual regiment of pain medication can eventually cause other issues. The option for home remedies lends itself to massage, meditation, hot or cold packs, hot bath w/ Epsom salts, Rezzimax, or a tens unit. The objective is to relax the facial muscles and provide pain relief. Another non-surgical option would be the use of oral appliance therapy. This method focuses on treating the problem and reducing and or alleviating the pain completely. First, when the discs are out of place, a skilled dentist can make a bite splint that will reduce the pressure on the slipped discs and give them a chance to go back into proper position. This works well with headaches and no drugs are involved! Secondly, if the bones in the skull are not balanced, then a little device called the ALF appliance might be able to help tremendously. The ALF appliance is designed to re-align distorted cranial bones. When the cranial bones are in proper alignment, the body functions so much better and resulting in less pain.

As you can see, there are indeed ways to manage head and neck pain non-surgically and without drugs.