Dr. Shapira's Chicago Headache Blog

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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Headaches, Ear Pain, Mouth, Jaw and Tooth Pain related to TMJ, Whiplash and Unstable Atlas

Frank: What are the costs of treatment and is it covered by insurance? I have severely ground teeth. I clench a lot but mostly during day. 61 yrs old I do TMJ massage and that slightly helps. The headaches occur 4-10 times month. Headaches are inside my ears, above ears, in mouth and jaw and seem to sometimes be in the teeth and roof of mouth. I had whiplash injury. When I have atlas aligned it helps but does not stay in alignment.

Dr Shapira response: Insurance sometimes covers part of the cost but most insurance companies are worried primarily about shareholders and profits. Several years ago Chicago HMO agreed to pay 100% of the costs even though it was specifically excluded by their policy. Dr Mitchell Trubitt was the medical director after I showed him (trial of 6 patients) that covering TMJ disorders and neuromuscular dentistry saved them money. For many years I saw 15-25 new Chicago HMO patients patients a month and sometimes more. Success was incredible when cost was not an issue. Unfortunately United Health Care bought out Chicago HMO and they did not continue coverage. An article in Crano showed a 300% increase in medical costs in every field of medicine (except obstetrics) in patients with TMJ disorders.

As to your symptoms and treatment, I would suggest you have and examination and a diagnostic neuromuscular orthotic. It will protect your teeth from damage and address the myofascial pain it sounds like you are having.

Are you complete free of pain on your non-headache days or is the pain at more tolerable levels. Many patients "live" on drugs like ibuprofen and count headache days only when it doesn't work. The cost of living in pain is far greater than the cost of treatment. Chronic pain can suck the life out of you and the joy out of life.

The whiplash and Atlas are directly related to the jaw muscles and jaw joint and it is almost impossible to have a stable atlas / axis / craio articulation without correcting jaw position. The mandible acts like a counterbalance to the head and should be considered "the last vertebrae" which must be stabilized in a healthy position.

A diagnostic neuromuscular orthotic is the best way to determine if treatment will be effective. The orthotic is a reversible treatment that can be a life changer.

Frank: I'm in California? Is that a problem?

My headaches (or severe muscle pain in head neck teeth ears etc.) somedays is completely gone. But if I touch certain muscles they always feel like spasms and are very painful. Even 2 muscles on the side of my neck. Will it help to have all teeth capped to get them back to proper height? Will the cartilage that's wornoff ever grow back? Massage helps some I think? Cold laser helps quite a bit but I will have to do it forever. I no longer grind teeth,I just clench my jaw during the day even though my teeth aren't touching. I probably use 6-10 advil a month. But I use certain homeopathics and ice-cold therapy which are intermittent. ??????????????? I dream of a headache free pain free life.... Sometimes my headache so to speak is in my throat and in the teeth themselves and center of the ears. TKU Frank

Dr Shapira response: Frank, I don't think your pain is ever gone if the muscles are still painful to touch. It just means your pain level is below threshold but it takes a lot of energy to control pain and keep it below threshold. I term that energy "vital energy" it is the energy that makes you happy and lets you enjoy life rather than merely tolerate living. Do not start with having your teeth capped. What if it makes the pain worse. Start with a removable diagnostic neuromuscular orthotic that will let you treat the problem and evaluate success before making irreversible changes. Proceed with caps or other permanent correction only after controllling or eliminating pain to where you have a good quality of life. It is unlikely that cartilage that is totally gone will grow back but damaged cartilage can heal if it is given an ideal situation for healing.

Cold laser is safe but usually not long lasting. Trigger point injections tend to give more lasting results with hot trigger points in muscles. Spray and stretch can give amazing results. The pain patterns you describe are myofascial pain but that is just a guess without an exam.

California, is that a problem? I see long distance patients but to be successful I need several days intensive treatment to try to reach a relative homeostasis. My office can accomadate you but the first series of visits would be Monday thru Wednesday or Thursday and would require you arriving Sunday. Your original question about costs and insurance comes into play because the diagnostic stage of treatment including diagnostic orthotic, trigger points, etc may be an out of pocket expense. I would probably want to have my A/O chiropracter evaluate your Atlas after delivery of an appliance Monday afternoon.

Treatment is all about quality of life and relief of pain. There are no guarantees but my goal is to relieve as much pain as possible. I recently treated a woman who spent 50 years with a continuous headache and received total relief. I did do a reconstruction on that patient (wife of a physician) but only AFTER the pain was relieved.

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posted by Dr Shapira at 6:34 PM

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