Health Watch — Pain in the Head: Jaw Pain

Health Watch is a Public Service of the Office of News and Publications  and is intended to provide general information only and should not replace the advice of a medical professional. You should contact your physician if you have questions about any of these topics.


This week on Health Watch, we’re talking about pains in the head. Temporomandibular disorder, or TMD, is one of the most common causes of skeletal or muscular pain — second only to lower back pain. This disorder, which causes pain in the jaw and face, affects more than 10 percent of Americans.

Dr. Anna Stowell, a pain management specialist at UT Southwestern Medical Center, says treating TMD can be expensive. Standard treatments include medication, physical therapy, or even surgery. UT Southwestern researchers are testing a different approach to TMD pain, teaching patients biofeedback techniques to help them control tension in their jaws as a way of avoiding pain. Patients learned new responses to stress as well as learning how to control some responses that are usually involuntary. The patients trying the new techniques reported less pain and an improved outlook on life. They also visited the doctor less often and spent less money on medical care for TMD.  


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February 2007

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