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Mind-Body Awareness Helps TMJ Sufferers

Massage clients who present with temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ) could benefit from learning more about the mind-body connection. TMJ, which is associated with jaw or facial pain, affects more than 10 percent of Americans, making it the second-most common pain-causing muscular and skeletal condition, behind low-back pain.

Two recent research projects taught patients about the mind-body relationship, the body’s reaction to stress, and relaxation training in everyday settings. Instruction was also is given on biofeedback (the use of monitoring equipment attached to the body to record changes in muscle tension, respiration and temperature) to teach a person to control those functions generally considered involuntary.

About 50 of the study participants received the intervention and a year later reported reduced levels of pain. They also displayed improved coping abilities and better moods and emotions, said Anna Stowell, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychiatry and anesthesiology and pain management at The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, and co-author of the studies. The other half of the participants, who did not undergo intervention, made many more trips to a doctor to seek pain treatment. They also reported more general anxiety and other disorders.

The research results, described in a study appearing online in early February in the Journal of the American Dental Association and in another study published in the journal’s March 2006 issue, show that those who received the intervention had significantly lower levels of pain and fewer doctor visits.

“The intervention really helps people become more capable of managing pain,” said Stowell.