We understand: reading the list of symptoms for TMJ for the first time can leave you incredulous: how can one condition cause so many (and so far-reaching) symptoms? But it’s the truth.

And new research is showing not only how TMJ can lead to jaw pain, migraines, neck pain, and more, but also how it’s connected to other mysterious conditions like fibromyalgia and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

But this research also gives us hope that TMJ treatment can break the cycle and alleviate many of these interlocked conditions.

A Bidirectional Signal Mechanism

Researchers at Missouri State University have been looking at the mechanisms behind orofacial pain (a fancy way of saying pain in the mouth or the face). In particular, they’re looking at an inflammatory protein known as calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP), which has recently been revealed to play a key role in triggering migraines.

In fact, many people believe that CGRP is the key to solving migraines. How many people? Enough that four major pharmaceutical companies are in a race to develop migraine treatments based on blocking CGRP.

CGRP gets released by the trigeminal nerve when it gets irritated, which is what sets off the chain reaction that culminates in a migraine. Since so much of the trigeminal nerve is interlaced with the chewing muscles, it’s easy for TMJ to lead to irritation of the trigeminal nerve, which sets off the migraine cycle.

But the revolutionary discovery at MSU is that CGRP isn’t just released by an irritated trigeminal nerve: it also makes the trigeminal nerve vulnerable to irritation. And CGRP levels in the trigeminal nerve are influenced by those in the spine, and, in turn, influence CGRP levels in the spine.

Thus, migraines not only trigger the immediate painful attack, but they elevate CGRP levels in the spine, which conveys these inflammatory proteins to the rest of the body. When inflammatory attacks are triggered (such as a bout of IBS), they can trigger CGRP levels in the spine to rise again, creating an “echo” effect, that triggers elevated CGRP in the trigeminal nerve again.

A Key Role for TMJ

These researchers at MSU have speculated that TMJ could actually play a keystone role in this chain of elevated CGRP levels. Their models show that it’s possible that treating TMJ early could potentially interrupt the cycle of inflammation and either prevent or seriously mitigate the severity of some of these other conditions.

If you are suffering from TMJ and some of these related inflammatory conditions, you may feel like you’re at the end of your rope, but you’re not. There is help. To learn whether TMJ treatment in Savannah can help you get relief, please call (912) 234-8282 for an appointment with a TMJ dentist at Beyond Exceptional Dentistry today.