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Medical Marijuana and Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ)

What Is Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ)?

Temporomandibular joint disorder or TMJ is one of numerous conditions that medical marijuana is now being used for as treatment. This disorder affects the temporomandibular joint, which is found where the mandible connects to the temporal bone of the skull. There is actually more than one disorder that is referred to using this term. They all involve problems with the muscles surrounding the temporomandibular joints or the joints themselves. They can affect one or both sides of the face.

Symptoms and complications of temporomandibular joint disorder include pain in the jaw, mouth, neck, face, ears and/or head. Pain in any or all of these areas can be treated with medical marijuana. Another symptom and cause is bruxism. Bruxism is grinding of the teeth and can be protected against with a mouth guard. The joint may pop when opened or be difficult to open. It can also be difficult to chew. The decreased mobility of the jaw may be caused by muscle spasticity, which can also be treated with medical marijuana, as evidenced by the research into treatment of multiple sclerosis with medical marijuana.

Before treating temporomandibular joint disorder with medical marijuana, a sufferer must have a physical examination to see if an obvious cause is present that can be corrected. In rare cases, surgery is necessary to correct the problem. Medical marijuana can help with the pain and other symptoms, but it cannot replace joint or tendon surgery. In other cases, a dentist may be able to help by correcting the sufferer's bite and/or making a mouth guard for help with clenching. In other cases, there is no known cause and long-term treatment with pain relievers or muscle relaxants can be dangerous. Medical marijuana is a safer alternative in that lethal overdose is impossible and side effects can be more tolerable.

Medical Marijuana and Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ)

Temporomandibular Joint Disorder and Medical Marijuana

Temporomandibular joint disorder can cause an uncomfortable condition called muscle spasticity. This makes it difficult to move the mandible up and down. The muscles tense up and are difficult to stretch back out. Oftentimes, attempts to do so are painful. In one study that involved muscle spasticity in individuals with multiple sclerosis, nearly half of those interviewed said that they feel relief from their muscle spasms when they use marijuana. Yet another study in 1997 of 112 MS patients who used marijuana showed that nearly all of them had reduced pain and reduced muscle spasticity. The cause of muscle spasticity in temporomandibular joint disorder is likely tension on the muscles. This differs from multiple sclerosis as the spasticity in MS originates in the brain. Nonetheless, there is anecdotal evidence that medical marijuana can relieve muscle spasticity in TMJ as well. 

Medical Marijuana Research and Pain in Temporomandibular Joint Disorder 

Pain is the number one symptom of temporomandibular joint disorder. This pain interferes with sleep, eating, talking and concentrating. One of the types of pain that comes with TMJ is headache. Headaches are one of the oldest known conditions to be treated with medical marijuana. It is so effective that it can treat blindingly painful cluster headaches. The headache pain that comes with temporomandibular joint disorder can be very painful but is less severe than that of cluster headaches. However, it is a different sort of headache. Clusters appear to be neurological while temporomandibular joint disorder symptoms are caused by stress on the joint and general muscle tension in the area. Nonetheless, medical marijuana works as an analgesic much like Tylenol. It can treat tension headaches.

 Both pre-clinical and clinical research shows that medical marijuana can help with neuralgia, somatic pain and visceral pain. Pain from temporomandibular joint disorder is somatic pain. In other words, it stems from an area outside of the brain and the intestines. Medical marijuana can provide mild to moderate relief of this sort of pain with the right dose. TMJ pain is also chronic pain if the underlying cause cannot be found and corrected. Treating chronic pain with traditional pain relievers such as opiates and even over-the-counter pain relievers can have severe side effects. Medical marijuana has few if any long-term effects. Furthermore, as mentioned above, no dosage of medical marijuana is known to be lethal.

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