Last year, researchers announced the results of a groundbreaking study on TMJ. Called OPPERA (Orofacial Pain: Prospective Evaluation and Risk Assessment), the large study revealed many patterns that people had not suspected about the effects of TMJ. OPPERA revealed that people who suffer from TMJ are also likely to suffer from other chronic pain conditions, including fibromyalgia and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). In fact, as much as 60% of TMJ sufferers either have abdominal pain consistent with IBS or have been diagnosed with IBS.
Unfortunately, we don’t yet understand why, but we hope to with the new OPPERA II study.
A Unified Theory of Pain?
Some researchers have proposed that once people suffer from one type of chronic pain, their body’s attempt to adapt to the pain can put it at greater risk for additional chronic pain. The proposal states that when the body is trying to deal with chronic pain in one part of the body, it may mess up the body’s natural painkiller mechanisms, which makes other parts of the body increasingly sensitive to pain.
Where Is the Source of Pain?
One thing we still don’t know for sure about TMJ and IBS is whether they are actually pain in the tissue where pain is felt, or if they are types of neuralgia, or nerve pain. In other words, is TMJ actually jaw pain or pain in the nerve that communicates jaw pain and your brain can’t tell the difference? The OPPERA II study aims to determine whether the pain comes from your actual tissues or from nerves in your spine or elsewhere along the chain that connects your tissues with your brain..
Another revelation of the OPPERA study is that TMJ and IBS seem to afflict women significantly more often than men. OPPERA and other studies also show that TMJ and IBS seem to fluctuate with menstrual cycles. As a result, some researchers have suggested that estrogen may play an important role in TMJ. OPPERA II hopes to discover and understand that role..
Pain Relief That Works Today
Although no one understands exactly how TMJ treatment works, we do know that it does for many of our patients. Patients can experience relief from many chronic pain conditions, including TMJ, migraines, and others.
If you want to learn whether TMJ treatment can help you, please call (303) 691-0267 at the TMJ Therapy & Sleep Center of Colorado in Denver today for an appointment.