So, let’s talk (well, it’s me doing most of the talking) about the side effects of TMJ disorders. You, dear readers, already know about the problem of having displaced discs in the TM joints and how this can cause terrible pain in the body. I’ll bet you didn’t know that this can directly correlate to disease processes like cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Let me explain. Every day of the week I meet a new patient or two who have slipped discs in the jaw joints. They report how they have been dealing with pain for all this time and just don’t know what to do. They have been to multiple doctors for the headaches, the neck pain, the tremors, and the vision problems. They have seen their PCP, the ENT, the PT, the DO, and the other DO (PCP=Primary Care Physician, ENT=Ear, Nose, and Throat, PT=Physical Therapist, DO= Doctor of Osteopathy, other DO=Doctor of Optometry …whew… that’s a lot of doctors and lots of initials to deal with) and yet nothing is improving with the pain. They are suffering. And then they come see me out of desperation. They found me on a Google search. Nothing fancy, nothing sexy, but I’ll take it.
By the time I meet many of our new patients, their symptoms are so advanced that their case is now difficult to fix, but 90% of the time I am able to help them. As you already know, I diagnosis most of the time using an MRI. And almost all the time I find that the articular discs are indeed displaced. Sometimes the damaged discs have rubbed around in the sockets for so many years that the jawbone itself, and even the socket, is already damaged. The pain in these cases is sometimes just too much to bear. People who hurt this much almost all the time do not sleep well and this will affect their health and well-being.
When a person does not sleep well, this can easily lead to sleep apnea which means the body cannot heal properly and disease processes are more likely to set in. An example of this is that when you hurt all the time, you never really get into deep level 3 or even REM sleep for as long as your body needs. The healing sleep does not happen as much as it should, and the body cannot repair damage very well. This also promotes inflammation and over time this becomes a vicious cycle- lack of sleep leads to lack of repair and leads to more pain and less sleep and you get the picture.
The research is there, and it is conclusive. If you do not sleep well, your body breaks down at a faster rate which then leads to cardiovascular breakdown and diabetes, along with other disease processes. (Hate to say it, but I’m talking cancer). This past weekend I reviewed a special case that I am analyzing for a paper and saw exactly this problem that I have discussed above. The young lady was rear ended while at a standstill. Prior to the crash she had no pain and was on no meds. She was being treated by 4-5 doctors at the time. She had little to no relief. In desperation she found me on the Internet, and I found the displaced discs, but prior to all this she gradually went on sleep meds, pain meds, anti-depression meds. All of this from the accident. Her pain prevented good sleep which prevented good healing which led to more pain and less sleep and less healing and OH MY!