TMD Hypnosis Research

A temporomandibular disorder (or TMD) is a term used to describe chronic and or acute inflammation of the temporomandibular joint with sufferers reporting significant pain in and around the jaw, radiating pain across the shoulders and neck as well as also commonly reporting associated headaches, earaches and facial pain. Typically 5-7% of the population suffers from some form TMD which includes bruxism.

There are a number of different approaches in treating the condition and hypnotherapy is often said to be one of them. Since TMD in many cases is an unconscious sleep state action (teeth grinding), many report that traditional means of treatment simply do not work because a conscious awareness of the action is a prerequisite to treatment. Hypnosis is often seen as a possible option because it targets the unconscious driver behind the bruxism not requiring a conscious state of awareness to be of some benefit. Researchers from the University of Hawaii and the Tripler Regional Medical Center looked at the effectiveness of medical hypnosis in treating the pain symptoms of TMD to find out whether hypnotherapy could be a more mainstream approach to treat it.

28 patients were recruited for the study who at the onset, had not responded to more traditional means of treatment. The patient’s age ranged from 20 to 52 years with a mean age of 33. Of the original 28 patients, 23 patients were included in the final results of the study. Those 23 participants had at least 3 to 6 sessions of hypnosis treatment. The 5 not included in the study were classified as drop outs. Hypnosis treatment involved standard hypnotic treatment protocols including relaxation techniques, inductions, guided imagery, taught self hypnosis, convincers and post hypnotic suggestions. The patients were asked to fill out a relevant pain questionnaire four times – during a period on a wait list, immediately before treatment, post treatment, and finally, at a 6 month mark follow up.

71% of the patients reported improvement in daily functioning immediately after treatment and at the 6 month mark, this figure improved further to 80.45%. It should also be noted that patients exhibited far less wear and tear on their respective splints. The patients overall reported a significant reduction in pain frequency, duration, and intensity of pain post treatment. This study provides some promise to the argument that hypnosis and hypnotherapy can help alleviate the pain associated with TMD including bruxism and teeth grinding. Future studies should include a control group to provide a more evidentiary basis for this argument.

References

Simon E & Lewis D: Medical hypnosis for temporomandibular disorders: treatment efficacy and medical utilization outcome. Oral Surg Oral Med Oral Pathol Oral Radiol Endod. 2000;90:54-63.

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