Regional effects of orthopedic manual physical therapy in the successful management of chronic jaw pain

Temporomandibular disorders (TMD) include a variety of dysfunction of the maxillofacial region. A strong association between TMD and cervical spine pain exists, and widespread hyperalgesia is common in TMD. This case describes the management and reduction in regional hyperalgesia in a patient with chronic TMD. A 23-year-old female with a 10-year history of tinnitus and bilateral (B) jaw pain, and 5-year history of intermittent neck pain, presented with pain, which could reach 10/10 on the numeric pain rating scale, locking, tightness and restricted eating habits. Cervical motion testing did not reproduce her jaw pain. Her mouth opening (MO) and B temporomandibular joint (TMJ) accessory glides were limited and painful. Accessory glides at the upper cervical facet joints reproduced her jaw pain. Pressure pain thresholds (PPT) at her B masseters and thenar eminences at the hand were diminished, indicating hyperalgesia. Treatment was comprised of passive mobilizations at her TMJs and cervical spine. Home exercises included self-mobilization of her TMJs and neck. In six sessions, her MO improved from 30 to 45 mm and average pain improved from 4/10 to 0/10. The jaw pain and function questionnaire improved from 16/52 to 5/52. PPTs at her right/left masseter and thenar eminence improved from 140/106 and 221/230 kPa to 381/389 and 562/519 kPa, respectively.

This case described the treatment and reduction of upper extremity hyperalgesia of a patient with chronic jaw and neck pain. Manual therapy could be as useful intervention in the treatment of chronic TMD with distal hyperalgesia.

Neck Pain

Out of all 291 conditions studied in the Global Burden of Disease 2010 Study, neck pain ranked 4th highest in terms of disability and 21st in terms of overall burden.

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