Case Study 5 TMJ/Jaw Pain
Joan is a 63-year-old female that presented with Jaw (TMJ) pain. There was no previous history of a jaw problem, and no injury she was aware of. Joan was unable to open her jaw more than one inch, and had been unable to chew any solid food for four weeks.
Her first few visits were comprised of a combination of acupuncture, Ultrasound/muscle stimulation and cranial adjustments. I used the acupuncture to reduce muscle spasm and decrease inflammation. The ultrasound/mm stim was used to heat/relax the spasm, and the cranial work involved gentle release of the muscles inside the jaw. Joan returned a week later for follow-up, where she informed me the pain had begun to subside and her ability to open her mouth was improving. I repeated the treatment a few more times, with some variation of the acupuncture points.
After about 4 treatments, it seemed we were at a standstill. Her pain was diminishing and her ability to chew was increasing, but not fully, and she was still experiencing discomfort while eating. I knew there was something missing. TMJ problems usually respond much quicker than this. After a brief discussion, I discovered that she was clenching her jaw at night, which made it very stiff and sore in the morning. People who clench their teeth at night, often times have an underlying Candida (yeast) problem in their gut. Candida feeds on sugar and carbohydrates, including those in saliva. When you sleep, the Candida ‘makes’ you clench your teeth to produce more saliva, so it can feed and grow. This is why when treating a Candida problem; one must eliminate sugar and carbohydrates from the diet.
I put Joan on a Candida elimination diet, and gave her a nutraceuticals containing Caprylic Acid, which kills off yeast. She returned a week later and had marked improvement, although she was far from cured. It was amazing to her that when she ‘cheated’ on her Candida elimination diet, the next day her jaw pain increased exponentially. I knew we were onto something. Over the next few weeks of the treatment and diet, she improved, but once again came to a standstill. What was I missing?? We had another conversation about her health and body systems to see if I could uncover anything.
She mentioned that she had been experimenting with her primary care doctor to find a cholesterol medication. She told me that she had been on a new drug for the last 6 months. When I asked her how long she had been experiencing the jaw pain, her eyes widened and she smiled. “Six months!” I knew we found the missing piece of the puzzle. I advised her to contact the prescribing doctor and either get off the drug, or try another one (the last 3 had also caused problems).
Sometimes people need cholesterol-lowering drugs. I find them overly prescribed though. Allopathic physicians usually want ones cholesterol below 200. ‘Natural’ physicians like the cholesterol range to be around 230. Adequate levels of cholesterol are not only important, they are a necessity! All of your hormones are derived from cholesterol. If you are having problems with you hormones (menopause etc), you may want to look at your cholesterol, and any cholesterol-lowering drugs (statins). A large percentage of women who come to me for help with menopause are taking a statin. Often times their cholesterol levels are just fine. The doctor just put them on a statin ‘just in case’. Statins are harmful to your body, especially to the liver. This is why periodic blood tests are required. They are checking for liver damage.
In the acupuncture world, your muscles and joints are affected by the liver. For example; if you are experiencing muscle problems/spasms etc, or are starting to feel arthritis symptoms, we check the liver function. Pain in the thumbs, carpal tunnel syndrome, joint pain and morning stiffness are common initial symptoms.
As for Joan, she is doing great.