If you have temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ) or suspect that you have TMJ, you are likely considering many potential treatment options. When you hear about a new treatment option, you might get very excited about the possibility of getting a new cure.
Extracorporeal shock wave therapy (ESWT) is not a new treatment, but the application of ESWT is new, and, largely, unproven.
What Is ESWT?
ESWT creates shockwaves from outside your body, using an impactor that generates the shockwaves without actually striking the body. Instead, the shockwaves pass through a conducting gel into the body.
The technique was originally derived from treatments for stones and other calcifications within the body. Later, it was discovered that the procedure could be used to treat painful soft tissue injuries. Ostensibly, the treatment works by stimulating blood flow into the area, possibly by encouraging inflammation from low-level injuries. Healing then occurs, which includes the minor injuries related to ESWT, and the condition that is being treated.
The treatment is associated with significant discomfort during the procedure, unless anaesthetic is used, but shortly after procedures on the foot, people are largely able to walk themselves out of the office to their car. They could drive themselves home, except for the influence of anaesthesia. People can return to activities over a period of a few weeks after treatment.
Does It Work for TMJ?
Although there are nearly 20 years of research and experience in using ESWT for various conditions, the experience with TMJ is much less. In one study looking at muscle tension, about 64% of patients saw an improvement of their jaw pain. Of course, the authors aren’t very forthcoming about how many people saw improvement using only placebo. Instead, they are safely able to declare that there was a statistically significant difference between the effectiveness of the treatment and placebo.
With limited evidence of the effectiveness of ESWT, we encourage using other noninvasive treatment options with a longer record of success. If you’re looking for proven treatments for TMJ, please call (803) 781-9090 for an appointment with a TMJ dentist at Smile Columbia Dentistry.