Temporomandibular disorders (TMD) and myofascial (muscle and ligament) pain can be some of the most elusive conditions to treat. One of the primary reasons for poor outcomes in treatment of TMD and myofascial pain is the lack of understanding of the relationship between articular muscular and neurological causes of these conditions. If any of these causal factors are not addressed in the treatment approach, poor results can occur. People can continue to suffer with symptoms despite years of traditional medical therapy. To effectively alleviate the symptoms associated with TMD and myofascial pain your doctor must use an integrated treatment approach combining various therapeutic modalities.
One therapeutic modality I use is laser therapy. L-a-s-e-r is an acronym for light amplification by stimulated emission or radiation. A laser is a single wavelength of light very tightly focused, whereas artificial and natural light consists of many different wavelengths scattered in different directions. Cleared by the FDA in 2003, Class IV laser therapy has become the standard of care for many musculoskeletal injuries. There are many classes and types of lasers available from Class I through Class IV. The Class I is typical of laser pointers. Class IV is typical of the high powered medical lasers. Though some Class I and Class II lasers are advertised for laser therapy, they lack the power to provide the desired effects.
When laser light is absorbed by living tissue, it triggers a biological reaction in the targeted cells. Chemical substances are produced, released, and then carried by the blood and lymphatic flow to other parts of the system. In this way, the effects of the laser light may be not only local, but can also accomplish wide systematic physiologic responses, including reduction of pain by causing production of natural pain killers called endorphins and enkephalins. Laser therapy also decreases nerve sensitivity and significantly reduces the perception of pain. As a pain treatment, the therapeutic effects of laser therapy are without equal.
Other benefits of laser therapy include:
- More than 90% effective.
- Completely safe and painless.
- No side effects.
- Reduces need for surgery.
Therapeutic laser biological effects include:
- Rapid cell growth – accelerates cellular reproduction and growth.
- Inflammation reduction – causes vasodilation, increasing blood flow, which allows swelling and edema to be cleared from injured sites.
- Faster wound healing – stimulates fibroblasts development and accelerates collagen synthesis.
- Increased metabolic activity – increases energy available to these cells causing them to absorb nutrients and expel waste faster, which accelerates tissue repair.
- Stimulates nerve function – speeds up nerve cell reconnection, which decreases nerve healing time. Also increases the strength of the nerve signals, which improves overall nerve and muscle function.
It should be noted that laser therapy is part of a carefully developed treatment protocol, and is not a quick fix for pain sufferers. It does, however, expedite the healing process and provide faster pain relief than other options alone.