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Using TENS Therapy to Remedy Painful TMJ

Using TENS Therapy to Remedy Painful TMJ

Your temporomandibular joints (TMJs) are located in front of your ears on both sides of your head. These joints perform an essential role in connecting your lower jaw to your skull. 

TMJs perform like hinges that support your lower jaw as it moves up and down and side to side. A TMJ disorder can interfere with your ability to speak, chew, and breathe normally, affecting your quality of life. Fortunately, innovative non-invasive therapies such as transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) can effectively treat pain and reduce symptoms without medication or surgery.

In Jasper, Texas, dentist Eric R. Koch, DDS, and our team at Advanced Dental Care of East Texas provide expert diagnosis and treatment of TMJ disorders. Based on a thorough examination of your jaw, teeth, TMJs, and surrounding soft tissues and bones, Dr. Koch creates an individualized treatment plan for your condition. 

Many people achieve fast and significant pain management of TMJ pain with TENS therapy. In some cases, TENS therapy may be part of a conservative treatment plan that also includes behavior modification, exercises to strengthen jaw muscles, and pain-relief medication. If a misalignment of your jaw is causing TMJ pain, Dr. Koch may recommend the use of a stabilization splint or bite guard to address the issue. 

How TMJ pain occurs

At any given time, up to 12% of Americans experience a TMJ disorder, impacting about twice as many women as men. These conditions can develop as the result of many factors, including trauma, arthritis, a structural misalignment, or frequent teeth grinding and clenching. Some people develop TMJ pain that can’t be attributed to a specific cause. 

TMJ pain can also occur as the result of a dislocation of the shock-absorbing disc in the TMJ. When this disc is damaged, pain results. You may also hear a pop or cracking sound.

Why treating TMJ pain is important

Professional treatment with TENS can often help people achieve relief. Left untreated, TMJ symptoms can worsen. As your pain worsens, the pain caused by a TMJ disorder could affect your quality of life. 

TMJ pain is often an indication of inflammation or strain to the muscles surrounding the affected TMJ. If allowed to continue, TMJ pain can limit your jaw’s ability to function and cause changes in your bite. 

How TENS works

TENS uses a battery-operated device that sends low-voltage electrical currents through adhesive electrodes attached to the skin. The electrodes are placed near the nerves where your pain occurs or at trigger points for pain, such as the neck.

The flood of electrical impulses stimulates nerve cells that block the transmission of pain signals to your spinal cord and brain. That may lessen pain and help relax muscles. The impulses may also stimulate the nerves to help produce endorphins — natural painkillers that can block the perception of pain. 

What to expect with TENS therapy

TENS is performed as an outpatient procedure in the comfort and convenience of our office. There is no special preparation necessary for the treatment. Most people tolerate TENS therapy well without side effects. 

During treatment, you only have to sit back and relax. You will feel a tingling sensation in place of TMJ pain in a session that lasts about 30-60 minutes. The timing and intensity of impulses can be adjusted to treat your condition.

It can take about 30 minutes for TENS therapy to take effect and begin alleviating pain. While TENS can provide pain relief, it typically isn’t permanent since TENS doesn’t treat the root cause of your TMJ pain. Therefore, you may have to return for continual treatments to remain pain-free. 

Find out more about TENS therapy and other treatments for TMJ pain. Call our office today to schedule an appointment or reach out to our team online. 

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