Article written by: Dr Matthew Casey
Do you suffer with persistent headaches, neck pain and sleep difficulty? You could have a condition that stems from a hectic lifestyle.
The Australia that I see in surgery is now dominated by people who work long hours in order to sustain their lifestyle, pay their growing mortgage, and keep their social pecking order. They often have multiple children in private schools, and are stressed and overweight. Often their marriages will breakdown. These people are busy at work, focused on meeting deadlines or achieving their KPIs, or are often simply stressed-out by their employers, fellow work colleagues, or their crumbling home life.
Throughout the chaos of life’s daily stresses they develop an insatiable hunger, and inevitably feed their body and mind useless carbohydrates, nasty trans-saturated fats and drink high sugar cola drinks and then wonder why they are overweight with a skyrocketing BMI, and steadily developing high blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, coronary heart disease and the inevitable – temporomandibular disorders.
This is where so many people remain undiagnosed and suffer needless ongoing chronic pain. I find these people are really hurting and need our help. Saying someone has a temporomandibular disorder (TMD) is a broad diagnosis. It’s an inflammatory disorder that affects the jaw muscles, ligaments, TM disk, the bony articular surfaces of the joint, the teeth and often the entire body.
The most common symptom is called occipital cephalgia, otherwise known as ‘neck pain’. This occurs due to a developing forward head posture (FHP). This FHP often occurs because the patient is having difficulty in breathing. I often diagnose so many ‘noses’ that don’t function. A FHP gives rise to shoulder rotation, headaches, migraines, pelvic disorders and foot problems. Simply by looking at these people, you can see how their body has begun compensating for their forward head posture. This compensatory role of the body is under the direct control of the central nervous system (the brain) to prevent the person from falling over. These compensations occurring in the shoulders, head posture, and pelvis are what give rise to the headaches, migraines, ringing in the ears and tingling in the fingertips.
The initial response should be to do a thorough history, examination and diagnosis. It’s important to determine whether the joint is the primary cause of the pain, or if it’s some other body part such as the shoulders, feet or pelvis that’s the cause of their TMD. To determine the primary cause of someone’s TMD problem, we must use the patient’s autonomic nervous system to tell us where the problem originates.
Recently I completed a mini-residency in tempromandibular disorders, profacial pain and sleep disorder dentistry, and I use motor reflex testing to determine where the TMD problem is stemming from. Remember, a mouth splint or orthotic may not be the best form of initial treatment. If you’re hurting, having difficulty breathing at night, or having poor sleep then please see help.