We all know that smoking is bad for us. It can cause everything from cancer to heart disease, and increase the likelihood of more severe side effects of other conditions, such as diabetes. But a new study in the journal Pain has now found that smoking can worsen the severity of symptoms of yet another painful condition: temporomandibular joint dysfunction.
Temporomandibular joint dysfunction is a collection of disorders of the jaw and temporomandibular joint, which causes pain and jaw stiffness. That pain isn’t just located in the jaw, either. People with temporomandibular joint dysfunction can experience pain in the back, neck, ears, and even in the head via migraine headaches.
While there is no one cause of temporomandibular joint dysfunction, it can be caused by genetics, stress, injury, and even other illnesses such as fibromyalgia and arthritis.
In the study, researchers attempted to see if smoking cigarettes had any effect on the pain of temporomandibular joint dysfunction. While there appeared to be no difference in the pain experienced by those with temporomandibular joint dysfunction from myofascial pain, those without myofascial pain did experience higher pain levels when smoking was reported.
Researchers believe that those without myofascial pain (patients with conditions such as arthritis and fibromyalgia) experience more severe pain from smoking because smoking could be degenerating the temporomandibular joint, much like it does with the spine.
So, what can you do if you have one of these conditions along with temporomandibular joint dysfunction, and you smoke? Quit smoking, of course. Quitting smoking is one of the best things you can do for your health. Best of all, according to the researchers in the Pain study, patients who quit smoking experienced lesser pain, and those who smoked and quit prior to their temporomandibular joint dysfunction pain diagnosis experienced no higher pain rates than those who never smoked.
If you are unsure how to quit smoking, don’t despair. Speak to your general practitioner for tips and a treatment plan. If you suffer from temporomandibular joint dysfunction, speak to Dr. Mingus about undergoing a treatment plan that can alleviate the pain in your jaw and get you back to feeling like yourself again.