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Doctor Q&A: How can I relieve the sharp pain in my jaw? February 14, 2008

Posted by Dreamhealer in Alternative medicine.
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Ask the Doctor: Alternative medicine expert answers questions from Register readers.

Orange County experts are available to field questions on health and medicine from Register readers. Najm of UC Irvine specializes in alternative medicine including: acupuncture, integrative medicine, dietary supplements and mind-body medicine.

Q: I am a 57-year-old male professional in excellent health. Three months ago I began experiencing an intermittent sharp pain in my right TMJ area while chewing or yawning. My dentist examined me and said he felt it was stress related from clenching my teeth at night.

It diminished somewhat over the next two months, but began reoccurring about two weeks ago as a very deep, sore ache. It would even spread to an ache above the temple. I saw the dentist again, and he reaffirmed that it was musculature and prescribed Valium and warm compresses to relax me when I got home from work, and a dental night guard if the meds didn’t work.

The Valium helps at night, but I have supplemented it with pirated Xanax in the afternoon when the pain starts up. This works, but I don’t want to rely on drugs to ease the muscle stress. Any suggestions from a homeopathic standpoint? Would acupuncture be appropriate, or should I just quit work and move to the beach in Hawaii and drink Mai-Tais till the money runs out?

A: Temporomandibular pain can be very frustrating and I sympathize with you. Based on the information you provided it looks like you do not have any underlying structural abnormality, and your symptoms are mainly a function of stress and muscle tension.

To help relieve muscle tension symptoms, you might consider pursuing one or more of the following approaches:

• If stress is a contributing factor to the muscle tension in your TMJ area, then stress reduction techniques, such as meditation, exercise, breath work, etc. can be very useful to help you manage stress effectively. This approach requires persistence and discipline. You have to practice daily to master the relaxation technique and gain the benefits.

• Find a licensed acupuncturist with experience in managing similar conditions. Acupuncture/acupressure can be very helpful in managing pain and relieving muscle tension.

• Look for a qualified and skillful massage therapist in your area. Massage therapy is excellent in relieving muscle tension and for relaxation.

Contact the writer: Dr. Wadie Najm specializes in alternative medicine, family medicine and geriatrics. To submit a question for him, email AskUs@ocregister.com. Put “NAJM” in the subject line.

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