Biofeedback Strategies Help Curb Jaw Disorder Pain

Study says relaxation techniques reduced chronic discomfort, costs of care for TMD

FRIDAY, Feb. 9, 2007 (HealthDay News) -- A new form of supplemental therapy that teaches patients pain coping strategies for a common jaw disorder can also lower their costs for treatment, a new study finds.

Temporomandibular disorder (TMD), which affects more than 10 percent of Americans, is the second most common pain-causing muscular and skeletal condition, behind low-back pain, according to background information in the article. TMD is caused by wear on the cartilage lining the jaw joint, resulting in pain from chewing, talking or clenching of the teeth.

This study by researchers at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas included 81 women and 20 men, ages 18 to 70, who were divided into two groups. One group received six weeks of early biopsychosocial intervention, while the other group received standard dental care.

The patients in the intervention group were taught about the mind-body relationship, the body's reaction to stress, and relaxation in everyday settings. They were also taught about biofeedback.

A year later, the patients who received the intervention reported reduced levels of pain and had improved coping abilities and better moods and emotions. Patients who received standard dental care made many more visits to a doctor for treatment of pain, the study found. They also reported more general anxiety and other disorders.

The findings were published online Monday in the Journal of the American Dental Association and are expected to appear in another study to be published in the March issue of the journal.

Standard care for TMD -- such as medication, physical therapy and surgery -- can be expensive, noted co-author Dr. Anna Stowell, assistant professor of psychiatry and anesthesiology and pain management at UT Southwestern.

"The early intervention can reduce TMD-related pain levels, stave off chronic pain and save people money on costly treatments," Stowell said in a prepared statement.

More information

The American Academy of Otolaryngology -- Head and Neck Surgery explains temporomandibular joint dysfunction.

SOURCE: University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, news release, Feb. 5, 2007
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