Chronic Overlapping Pain Conditions
In addition to being confused with other conditions, TMD is one of the chronic overlapping pain conditions (COPC). COPC cause long-lasting pain, are difficult to treat, and people with one either have or will develop others. This may be because of central sensitization, where the body receives so many pain signals from one type of chronic pain that it amplifies, prioritizes, or even creates pain signals from other parts of the body.
If this model is correct, it’s important to treat these conditions quickly to avoid central sensitization, which can lead to numerous additional problems.
About three-quarters (75%) of people with TMD experience other COPCs. The most common COPC are:
- Chronic lower back pain
- Irritable bowel syndrome/disorder (IBS/IBD)
- Interstitial cystitis
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
Although not all COPCs overlap, they all overlap with TMD.
Migraine is very common in people with TMD, affecting almost a third of all sufferers (30%). People with TMD are more likely to develop migraine in the future, and TMD treatment has been shown to lead to reductions in migraine frequency and intensity.
Chronic Lower Back Pain
Chronic lower back pain has the most overlap with other conditions, and it affects about 30% of sufferers with TMD.
IBS or IBD was among the first pain conditions to be linked to TMD, affecting nearly one-quarter of all people with TMD (24%). IBS causes abdominal pain, cramping, bloating, gas, diarrhea, and constipation. Although fiber can help manage the condition, symptoms aren’t always related to diet.
Fibromyalgia causes some of the most widespread pain of any COPC, including pain in the neck, shoulders, arms, buttocks, and legs. It also comes with fatigue, sleep problems, and mood disorders. It affects about 22% of all people with TMD.
Vulvodynia causes burning, stinging pain around the vaginal opening. It can affect many aspects of life, making it hard to do many things, from having sex to simply sitting down. About 17% of TMD sufferers experience vulvodynia.
Interstitial cystitis is a painful bladder syndrome affecting about 13% of all people with TMD. It can cause different levels of bladder pain, from mild to severe. This can be misdiagnosed as a urinary tract infection (UTI).
Endometriosis is when uterine lining tissue grows outside the uterus. It causes pain, irregular menses, nausea, or constipation. It affects about 8% of all TMD sufferers.
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Chronic fatigue syndrome is when a person feels fatigued despite little or no physical exertion. It affects about 8% of all people with TMD.
An Interdisciplinary Approach to COPCs
We have increasing evidence that the most effective way to manage and/or treat COPCs is with an interdisciplinary approach. A team of professionals from diverse disciplines can contribute to improving your long-term quality of life. A skilled neuromuscular dentist can be an invaluable addition to this treatment team if you have TMD.
Dr. Mike Firouzian has extensive experience treating TMD successfully and understands how to work well with a team of professionals to help you get the best possible results.