Sunday, January 23, 2011

TMJ AND IMS: My Success Story

TMJ and Me.

I am a TMJer. At 57 years of age I consider myself to be lucky. Why?

Because I haven't had severe or chronic TMJ problems and have been pain free relatively speaking for many years. I say "relatively speaking" because in hind sight I realize that frequent migraines, headaches, neck pain, shoulder pain and head and jaw pain came from my TMJ disorder.  My TMJ causes were mainly stress and poor posture so I consider myself lucky not to have any trauma  or degenerative joint or dislocation of the joint or arthritis of the TMJ joint.

A Little of my TMJ History

I never knew I had a TMJ problem until the early 70's when I was barely in my twenties and I began to have severe sharp pains in my right ear. My immediate thought was that I had an ear infection but the sharp pains would come and go. I had always known that my jaw didnt open and close evenly but it didn't give me any discomfort and so was just a fleeting thought that I had a mild physical oddity. As quickly as I noted it I forgot about it.

Then came the ear aches. Acute and for seemingly no reason. I felt well enough so how could I have an infection? After a few days of off again on again pain I visited my doctor. I was examined and checked for fever and he looked in my ears. Finding nothing the matter he referred me to an ENT (Ear, Nose and Throat) Specialist.

I don't recall his name but I do recall how quickly he arrived at a diagnosis. Of course he had my GP's report, so he put his fingers in my ears and asked me to open and close my mouth slowly. As I did this he said I had a dysfunctional something or other. He talked I listened but I guess I looked somewhat skeptical. He asked me to put my fingers in my ears and open and close my mouth as before. I felt that old uneven feeling as my chin performed an 'S' curve only this time it was fingers getting the full impact of my faulty jaw. For a brief instant I thought to myself .... Oh yeah I know I have that!....And then the realization that this was what was causing my ear aches was somewhat astounding. I was also very relieved that I didn't have an infection.

I bet you TMJer's out there are wishing right now that an infection was all you had; at least it could be cured with antibiotics. I understand completely.

It was then the doctor gave me a set of exercises to do and I still do them today. I am no expert but in the last little while I have watched videos and read up on TMJ exercises that appear to be as ineffective as they are ridiculous. Why, you ask? My reasoning ( and I am taking full writers license here) is that the jaw has about a force of 300 to 400 psi give or take. That's a lot of force and the exercises I have seen have you placing two fingers against your cheek and moving your jaw against them with pressure applied. I am sorry but that doesn't seem an effective exercise or a relative one to me. Not when you realize that the jaw can apply some incredible forces when clenching, chewing.

I have had success with the exercises given to me over thirty years ago by the ENT specialist and which I wrote about in detail on my first page" Treatments for TMJ".
Those exercises have proven valuable to me and I perform them any time I feel TMJ pain.

Major TMJ Flare-up
I cannot move my head

So it was just before Christmas and I was getting Christmas preparations underway for the visit from our daughter and our two grandchildren. As well as that, I was spending many long hours at my computer on projects that were causing me stress. So much so that I didn't notice how bad the pain was getting in my face, neck and shoulders. I admit to sitting badly in my chair. My posture is usually the first thing I forget when I am stressed.  Stress and bad posture are two major causes for TMJ jaw disorder.

With no time to spare I barreled ahead with my projects and Christmas chores. What a shock when I tried to get out of bed one morning and I could not lift my head off the pillow, there was so much pain. It wasn't just my neck that hurt, I had a pulsating pain on the right side of my head and the right side of my face felt bruised. Did I mention I was biting my nails quite a bit. Naughty me. When I finally managed to stand up by rolling over and dropping my feet on the floor I found I could not turn my head even an inch without awful pain.

IMS to the rescue.

IMS stands for Intramuscular Stimulation and I am fortunate to live in Victoria, B.C Canada and have qualified Therapists in clinics nearby.

Immediately, after one treatment I had nearly full range of motion moving my head to the right and just small amount to the left. During the week I continued to get better, the pain in my neck and shoulder decreased and then I could feel pain in my jaw and teeth I had not felt before because my neck was so bad. One week later I had my second treatment and a week after that I was almost back to normal. No jaw pain, just some soreness in my neck. I didn't need a third treatment.

I am so thankful I discovered IMS . It worked on my back when I was diagnosed with a spinal stenosis and it worked on my TMJ.

Read below the excerpt from Author Robin Shepherd of
The Institute for the Study and Treatment of Pain
IMS Practitioners in the United Kingdom

What is intramuscular stimulation (IMS)?

Intramuscular stimulation (IMS) is an effective treatment for chronic pain of neuropathic origin (see below). IMS was developed by Dr.Chan Gunn while he was a clinic physician at the Workers' Compensation Board of British Columbia. Dr.. Gunn, is currently a clinical professor and teaches IMS at the University of Washington's Multidisciplinary Pain Centre in Seattle and the University of British Columbia's Medical School. IMS is also taught and utilised at many centres around the world.
IMS is effective and has few side-effects; the technique is also unequalled for finding and diagnosing muscle shortening in deep muscles.
Although IMS uses implements adapted from traditional acupuncture, it is based on scientific, neurophysiological principles. The acupuncture needle used is very thin (much thinner than the hollow needle used to inject medicine or take blood samples). You may not even feel it penetrating the skin, and if your muscle is normal, the needle is painless.
However if your muscle is supersensitive and shortened, you'll feel a peculiar sensation - like a muscle cramp. This is a distinctive type of discomfort caused by the muscle grasping the needle. Patients soon learn to recognise and welcome this sensation. They call it a "good" or positive pain because it soon disappears and is followed by a wonderful feeling of relief and relaxation. The needle may still be in you, but because the muscle is no longer tight, you no longer feel it. What has happened is that the needling has caused your abnormal muscle shortening to intensify and then release. It is important that you experience this sensation in order to gain lasting relief.

Neuropathy - what happens when nerves start to go wrong...
Doctors usually have no difficulty in treating pain caused by injury (a fracture, for example) or inflammation (such as rheumatoid arthritis). They are perplexed however by pain that shows no sign of tissue damage or inflammation.
This type of pain, known as neuropathic pain, typically occurs when nerves malfunction following minor irritation. Nerves and nerve endings become extremely sensitive and cause innocent, harmless signals to be exaggerated and misinterpreted as painful ones.This characteristic is known medically as supersensitivity). The result is pain, even when extensive medical tests show there is "nothing wrong". Until recently, supersensitivity has received little attention in medical circles.
The effects of IMS
The effects of IMS are cumulative- needling stimulates a certain amount of healing, until eventually, the condition is healed and the pain disappears. Some patients treated with IMS have remained pain-free for over 20 years.
Frequency of treatments
Treatments are usually once a week (but can be spread out to two weeks) to allow time between treatments for the body to heal itself. The number of treatments you require will depend on several different factors such as the duration and extent of your condition, how much scar tissue ther is (this usually increases after surgery) and how quickly your body can heal. The rate of healing depends on the condition of your nerves(young people usually heal more quickly although his is not always the case). If the pain is of recent origin, one treatment may be all that is necessary. In published studies of patients with low back pain, the average number of treatments required was 8.2.
Treating neuropathic pain
Supersensitivity and muscle shortening cannot be operated on and "cut away". "Pain killers" and other analgesic pills only mask the pain. The goal of treatment is to release muscle shortening which presses on and irritates the nerve. Supersensitive areas can be desensitised and the persistent pull of shortened muscles released.
The shortened muscle syndrome
An important factor in neuropathic pain is muscle shortening, caused by muscle spasm and contractor. Muscle shortening produces pain by pulling on tendons, straining them as well as distressing the joints they move. Muscle shortening also increases wear and tear and contributes to degenerative changes such as tendonitis and osteoarthritis.

These conditions are customarily regarded as "local" conditions and may not receive the appropriate diagnosis or treatment.

IMS Practitioners

See a listing of IMS Practitioners at :

TMJ and You
Dont Despair, Options are Here.

There are many TMJ treatment options for you to consider. Start with the conservative approaches and work your way through them. Give yourself lots of time to see if the treatment is working and be honest with yourself about the effort you are putting into following the treatment program.

Take care, TMJers. Wrap up with your gel packs and heat bags and find the treatment that works for you. Ask lots of questions and get several medical opinions before having any surgery.



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