Recently, we talked about the close association between sleep apnea and temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJ/TMD). However, this is not the only strong association between TMJ and related conditions. In fact, TMJ is considered comorbid with literally dozens of other conditions.
Comorbidity means that the conditions occur together more frequently than pure chance would suggest. We don’t always know whether the conditions are actually related, if one causes the other, or if they are both effects of some other condition. However, in some cases, evidence suggests that early treatment of TMJ might head off the development of some of these other conditions.
If you are looking for help with TMJ in Denver, please contact Denver TMJ dentist Dr. Kevin Berry at the TMJ Therapy & Sleep Center of Colorado.
#1 Chronic Overlapping Pain Conditions (COPC)
Some of the most common conditions linked to TMJ are chronic overlapping pain conditions (COPC). COPC frequently occur together, with one person commonly experiencing three or more of these conditions. For TMJ, about three-quarters of sufferers may experience one or more additional COPC.
Many believe that the frequency with which COPC occur supports the “central sensitization” model of TMJ and related conditions. In this model, chronic pain in one part of the body causes the brain to become sensitized so that it interprets non-pain signals as pain, including signals from other areas of the body. This can create a day that is filled with pain throughout the body. However, this model also suggests that getting TMJ treatment in Denver can reduce the likelihood of developing other COPC.
TMJ overlaps all COPC, including:
- Chronic lower back pain
- Irritable bowel disorder/syndrome (IBD/IBS)
- Interstitial cystitis
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
Below are brief descriptions of these conditions, as well as how often they occur with TMJ.
Migraine is more than just a headache. It is a circulatory disorder that results not only in pain, but also in light sensitivity, nausea, and other symptoms. Migraines occur with TMJ so frequently (about 30% of those with TMJ have migraines) that we often think of the condition as a symptom of TMJ.
Chronic Lower Back Pain
Chronic lower back is fairly self-explanatory. Though the lower back is far from the jaw, about 30% of people with TMJ develop chronic lower back pain.
Irritable Bowel Disorder/Syndrome (IBD/IBS)
IBD/IBS is when a person has a sensitive lower intestine that can make defecation painful and leads to a more frequent (sometimes unpredictable) urge to defecate. About 24% of people with TMJ experience IBD/IBS.
Fibromyalgia causes widespread pain, including the legs, buttocks, arms, shoulders, and neck. About 22% of people with TMJ also develop fibromyalgia. Some research also suggests that fibromyalgia might be linked to breathing disorders, including sleep apnea.
People with vulvodynia experience a burning, stinging pain around the vaginal opening. About 17% of people with TMJ also experience vulvodynia.
Interstitial cystitis causes bladder pain that can range from mild to severe. Like TMJ it is often misdiagnosed. People with interstitial cystitis may be initially diagnosed with a urinary tract infection (UTI), only learning about their true condition because the pain persists and doesn’t respond to UTI treatments. About 13% of people with TMJ experience this condition.
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Because it commonly occurs with other COPC, chronic fatigue syndrome is considered one of the conditions, even though pain is not its primary symptom. In chronic fatigue syndrome, people feel fatigued even when they aren’t being active. About 8% of people with TMJ develop this condition.
In this condition, uterine lining tissue grows outside the uterus, causing pain, irregular menses, nausea, and constipation. About 8% of TMJ sufferers develop this condition.
#2 Depression and Anxiety
Depression and anxiety are common in people with chronic pain, so it’s not surprising that people with TMJ are also at an elevated risk for these mental health conditions. The more severe a person’s pain, the greater their likelihood of developing related depression and anxiety.
#3 Hypertension and Heart Disease
Few studies have looked closely at the relationship between these cardiovascular conditions and TMJ. We don’t know the exact connection and don’t have a good explanation of a possible direct link. It’s likely that the link is indirect, via sleep apnea, which has strong, demonstrated links to these and other cardiovascular conditions.
In general, arthritis refers to inflammation of the body’s joints. Since arthritis is a common part of at least one type of TMJ (degenerative joint disease, DJD, sometimes described as osteoarthritis), it’s not surprising that TMJ would be linked to arthritis in other joints of the body. Perhaps it will be surprising to note that TMJ is associated with many types of arthritis, including:
- Juvenile idiopathic arthritis
- Psoriatic arthritis
- Rheumatoid arthritis
In many cases, it’s less likely that TMJ is the cause of arthritis. It’s more likely to be an effect of widespread arthritis. If your Denver TMJ dentist identifies arthritis as part of your TMJ, they might recommend additional testing and treatment to combat possible widespread effects.
Comprehensive TMJ Treatment in Denver
At the TMJ Therapy & Sleep Center of Colorado, Denver TMJ dentist Dr. Kevin Berry can treat TMJ and numerous related conditions. If you want to learn more about what we do and don’t know about conditions related to TMJ, check out the National Academy of Medicine’s 2020 report on TMD.
If you are looking for TMJ relief, please call (303) 691-0267 or use our online form to request an appointment at the TMJ Therapy & Sleep Center of Colorado, located in Denver near the intersection of I-25 and Colorado Boulevard.