For many Americans, chronic pain is a part of everyday life. In search of relief, many turn to all sorts of remedies, from meditation to acupuncture to herbal supplements and more. That said, most people who suffer from chronic pain rely on pain medications to help ease their discomfort. Recently, a relatively new drug showed promise in clinical trials which tested its efficacy for reducing pain. Unfortunately, any type of medication may not be a good choice for people who suffer from TMJ disorder, thanks to potential side-effects that could be worse than the pain itself.
Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)
NSAIDs have been proven to be effective at treating TMJ pain. This includes over-the-counter versions, such as ibuprofen and naproxen. However, they should be used only for short-term relief. Use of these drugs for long periods of time can result in serious complications.
Opioids are terrible medications for chronic pain relief, as the epidemic of opioid overdoses shows. While opioids can provide relief from pain, their effectiveness diminishes with time. Opioids are also highly addictive. The combination can be deadly.
Doctors commonly use steroid injections to treat many types of inflammatory disorders, including joint problems related to arthritis. This type of treatment is also very effective for TMJ. Unfortunately, they can also cause some (occasionally serious) side effects, such as bone resorption, soft tissue damage, and high blood pressure.
Muscle relaxants can be effective for muscle-related TMJ. However, they also have the problem of being addictive, and cause side effects such as sedation. This makes them better for short-term relief than long-term management. Sometimes BOTOX injections are used in a similar way, which avoids these problems, but has other problems (such as the loss of bone mass in the jaw).
These medications can help people who have sleep problems as well as muscle spasms. However, they have similar problems to opioids. Benzodiazepenes lose their effectiveness over time, and they can be highly addictive. While they are less likely to result in overdose deaths, they are still not recommended for long-term relief.
Antidepressants can give relief from pain through alteration of the serotonin and noradrenaline channels. They can work well for people who have TMJ and depression. However, they have numerous side effects for other patients, and may not be suitable.
Some people advocate using anticonvulsants for TMJ pain. However, there is little research to support this.
The drug maker, Pfizer Inc. reported that its pain drug Lyrica (pregabalin) relieved pain better than placebo pills in a study that included 441 fibromyalgia patients. According to the research, Lyrica provided noticeable pain relief for the majority of participants; however, results began to dwindle after subjects took the drug for an extended period of time.
Currently approved to treat pain associated with nerve damage, shingles, diabetes and spinal cord injuries, Lyrica is not available for people who suffer from TMJ disorder; however, this most recent study indicates that the manufacturer has plans to expand its market in the near future. Considering the links between fibromyalgia, TMJ, and other chronic overlapping pain conditions (COPC), it’s possible that Lyrica could treat TMJ. Unfortunately, there are no studies supporting the effectiveness of Lyrica for TMJ. The same is true for gabapentin, a related anticonvulsant.
Drug-Free Help Now
If you have TMJ disorder, there’s simply no reason to continuously ingest copious amounts of pain medication. Right now, you can get non-medicinal TMJ relief that can relieve your pain without unwanted side effects. A bite splint can eliminate TMJ pain by correcting a misaligned bite. To learn more, call Dr. Dunayer’s office at (845) 627-7645 today.