Treatment of Muscle Spasm, Muscle Pain and Myofascial Pain in TMJ Disorders: Myomonitor and ULF TENS

Dr. Shapira Blog, TMJ 0 Comments

This is an answer I gave on to the question of treating muscle spasm in TMD disorders associated with a close-lock TMJ. A link to discussion will be at bottom of post

“What would you recommend doing about the muscle spasms?” is an excellent question. The first step is to make a specific diagnosis. You question is perfectly meaningless without understanding the type of muscle spasm we are talking about.

Acute Muscle Spasm is usually related to specific trauma and treatment is symptom specific. This does need to be differentially diagnosed from myoclonic muscle problems (both positive and negative) which could be related to underlying disorder.

Acute muscle spasm and muscle splinting can be closely related when an acute injury leads to muscle splinting or contacture of muscles to protect an area of injury. This can be a muscle tear, broken bone, damaged joint or tendon or tendon attachment problem. A blood clot can also result in acute muscle spasm but is rear in TMD.

Acute muscle spasm will usually self correct and is probably what happened to you in the episode you descibed as a close-lock though it is possible you had acute spasm and a partial dislocation of the disk.

Muscle splinting is an important body function that protects against additional injury and allows some function.

If the injury is a muscle tear or if the spasm is strong enough to cause a tear in the muscle you have a completely different problem. You will still have splinting and severe muscle inflamation and ice will usually be first line of approach. It is also possible to tear a tendon or have enthesis of tendon attachment. These all appear very similar to acute muscle spasm but are very different.

Muscle Splinting can lead to Myofascial Pain and Dysfunction (MPD) with trigger points, taut bands and referred pain. This is the most common type of pain anywhere in the body and is often misdiagnosed to the fact that the pain and where it is coming from are usually not correctly identified when doctors are not familiar with these problems. In the TMD field this often leads to Root Canal Treatment, Extractions and diagnosis of non-existent sinus or ear infections

MPD diagnosis is crucial. When confronted with this type of “muscle spasm” Travell Spray and Stretch techniques can often give instantaneous relief. Hot and Cold and Stretching can all be useful. Teaching patients to use Spray and

Stretch with vapocoolants at home is ideal and should be taught to patient. MPD is caused by repetive strain injuries and correction of these problems is important. This may be related to postural condition, anxiety and stress and muscle misuse. Not correcting underlying structural issues is unwise for many patients, it is ethically required to explain postural considerations including bite to patients.

Treatment with ULF-TENS is an excellent modality. The Myomonitor has been used to relax muscles in Neuromuscular Dentistry for over 50 years. It works as a muscle stim peripherally causing muscles to contract and relax every 1.5 seconds. This time is based on time it takes nerve and muscle membranes to return to normal after firing. This effectively eliminates fatigue and and causes repetitive contraction and relaxation of muscles increasing blood flow with nutrients from blood and taking away waste products.

NMD usues this on muscles innervated by the Trigeminal Nerve and the Facial Nerve (cranial nerves 5 and 7 respectively). In TMD patients this relaxes all muscles that are trigeminally innervated. This includes the masseters, the medial pterygoids, the temporalis, the superior and inferion lateral pterygoids, the sphenomandibularis, the Tensor Veli Palatini that opens and closes eustacian tubes and the Tensor Veli Tympani that cotrols tension and eardrum and the anterior belly of the digastric. It also works on muscles innervated by facial nerves when used in standard position over coronoid notch.

The myomonitor can also be used on muscles anywhere in the body directly or indirectly such as on accessory nerve (cranial nerve XI) to work on upper neck, back and shoulder muscles. The BioTens is another ULF-TENS that is used by some NMD dentists. There are many reasons why the Myomonitor is special in dealing with bites and high tech adjustments but the BioTens is excellent at relaxing muscles and I often use it on Cranial nerve XI.

Nutrition is important in dealing with muscle issues and muscles require both calcium and magnesium to contract and to relax. Some medications can cause severe muscle pain and issues.

Trigger point injections, dry needling, prolotherapy, prolozone therapy are all used to treat muscle spasm and taut bands. Spray and Stretch should be utilized with injections .

Posture stability is key. This video is a patient with TMD/ Headache/Migraine that is secondary to postural instability of hips. Treatment will fail if initial problem is ignored. This patient had a similar experience years previously.

We swallow 2000 times a day when our teeth touch momentarily when there is underlying postural instability we are more likely to have repetitive strain injuries. Clenching, grinding and misuse of muscles exacerbates these problems. Preventing issues is more effective than treating them after the fact. It is far easier to change the oil than change the engine in your car. It s better to prevent severe damage to TM Joints that wait till there is a disaster.

Locked Jaw – Is this permanent damage to my jaw? from TMJ

Jaw Joint and Muscle Sprain/Strain: JAMSS

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A new article in Inside Dentistry (reference below) reveals research that 50% of patients with TMJ disorders (TMDs) the initial onset was a result of Dental Care.
These problems may occur due to direct trauma to the jaw muscles or joints, sustained contractions of jaw muscles, and/or prolonged stretching of the masticatory muscles and joints, ligaments and tendons.
In my experience, this is especially true with procedures like lower molar extractions when bite blocks are not used, root canal therapy on second and third molars and other long appointments.
It is likely that most patients experiencing this were predisposed in some fashion to having jaw issues.

There are many things that can be done to help prevent these problems:
1. The judicious use of Travell Spray and Stretch technique following a long dental appointment can often relax the muscles and allow healing especially if done early. I frequently do this immediately after an appointment and before and/or aftyer on patients with pre-existing issues. Most pain related to TMJ dysfunction is actually Myofascial Pain and Dysfuntion or MPD.

2.Ice and or heat packs over jaw and neck muscles. This is similr to a post exercise muscle pain. Moist heat or heat alternated with ice can be extremely helpful.

3. I am an enormous advocate of the Aqualizer, an oral appliance that utilizes hydraulics to equalize the bite and relax musles. It has been shown to relax not just the jaw muscles but also neck, shoulder and back muscles over a couple of hours.

The use of ULF-TENS is amazing for preventing and allowing rapid healing of this type of problem. the ULF-TENS preconditions the muscles for their “Work Out” and afterward gentle pulsing helps relax muscles by increasing blood flow and pumping out waste products, such as lactic acid.

The Myomonitor is the original ULF-TENS and has an exceptional 50 year safety record. It has been show to be extremely efficient at relaxing muscles physiologically and this has beeen confirmed by surface EMG. The Myomonitor has a second aspect that is also very important, it acts as a SphenoPalatine Ganglion Stimulator and prevents onset of Axis two issues related to stress, anxiety and pain.

Axis two is H-P-A action or Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Adrenal System. This has been known since the work of Hans Selye first opened the medical communities eye to the effect of stress on the human body. SPG Blocks or Sphenopalatine Ganglion Blocks are also amazing at treating many TMJ issues as well as migraines, cluster headaches, anxiety and other pain issues.

It effectively helps turn off sympathetic overload and allow the parasympathetic system to predominate to allow healing.

Most TMJ disorders whether intracapsular or extracapsular are the result of repetitive strain injuries due to bit issues or patient behavior, ie cheerleaders joint or gum chewing. Adding a long dental procedure , trauma of extraction or injection thru muscle can be a significant factor in devloping long term problems.

Reference. Post Operative Jaw and Muscle Pain, a gGuide to Risk Assessment, Prevention and Treatment. Inside Dentistry April 2017 69-76
Brady LA, Fricton J, Eli B

J Am Dent Assoc. 2016 Dec;147(12):979-986. doi: 10.1016/j.adaj.2016.06.017. Epub 2016 Aug 31. Preventing chronic pain after acute jaw sprain or strain.
Fricton J, Eli B, Gupta A, Johnson N.…

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The number of abbreviations in medicine and dentistry is amazing.  In this short post I am going to give only a small number of definitions routinely utilized in literature and culture concerning TMJ disorders, often called “the Geat Imposter”  This will be an open Blog and will be added to over time.  Please come back and visit and if you have abbreviations you think need explanation please send the to me.

The most obvious is TMJ.  It is not a disease or a disorder but an abbreviation for the TemporoMandibular Joint.  The TM Joint is made up of the Temporal Bone of the skeuu “T” and the Mandible “M” where the come together is the Joint “J”  TMJ is not a diagnosis but a body part, like saying knee or Elbow.  The Fossa of the TMJ is located in the Temporal Bone which also forms the articular eminence.  The condyle is the part of the mandible in the TM Joint.  There is also an articular Disc the divides the Joint into upper and lower compartments, the lower is where rotation takes place and the upper is where translation or sliding takes place.  Both of these movements happen simultaneously in a heathy joint as the condyle dick assembly slides forward and back, side to side or obliquely while retaining ability to rotate.  The right and left joints always work in tandem but do not mirror the actions of each other in most movements.

TMD stands for TemporoMandibular Dysfunction or TMJ Disorders and is a disorder.  It can include internal derangemets which are problems inside the joint capsule.  These can include different types of arthritis and inflammatory conditions, the can include disc displacement disorders which are often referred to as clicking.  The clicking noises often represent the sounds of the condyle going on or off the disc.  Disc displacement can occur in different dimensions and to different extents.  There are reducible and not reducible clicks which refers to the ability to recapture the disc during function.  There are also closed lock dislocations of the disc where it is displaced without reduction. A displaced disc can be extremely painful. There can also be an open lock of the TMJ which is a subluxation where the condyle hyperextends over the articular evidence.  There are disorders like joint mice that are often diagnosed incorrectly as disc disorders.  You can also have inflamation , tearing and destruction of the retrodiscal lamina that connects the disc to the posterior parts of the joint including the joint capsule.  It is also possible to hacve a capsulitis of inflammation of Joint Capsule.

TMJ DISORDERS OR TMD DO NOT ALWAYS HAVE CLICKING, POPPING OR JOINT PAIN!  The disorder can be related to joint function without having internal derangements.

TMD also includes extracapsular Disorders and this is where the fun begins.

MPD is the most common extracapsular disorder.  It stands for Myofascial Pain and Dysfunction as defined by Travell and Simmons.  It is a muscular disorder that is distinct from Muscle Spasm or Myositis.  It is a disorder of muscle dysfunction secondary to improper muscle usage.  The muscle disorder is the result of a repetitive strain injury.  Myo is for  muscle and Fascia is connective tissue.  This is NOT Myo Facial Pain referring to the face though it is frequently seen written that way.

Myofascial Pain has muscles that contain taut bands and trigger points that can cause referred pain often far from the trigger points.  There are common patterns of referred pain that are often shown in textbooks but these patterns are not for a single patient but rather a frequency diagram based on thousands of patients.  The website is interactive and is an excellent reference for anyone with chronic pain anywhere in the body.

NUCCA and AO or A/O  are all terms for treatment directed at the complex articulation of the head to the first and second vertebrae of the Neck.  The occiput sits on top of the first vertebrae which is the Atlas.  It is named after Atlas of Greek Mythology who held and carried the world on his shoulders.  The head sits on two shoulders of the Atlas.  The TM Joints and The Atlas Occiput joints will tend to match three dimensionally.  The Axis is the second Vertebrae and has an upward protruding part called the Dens.  The Quadrant Theorem of Guzay is a mathematical explanation of the movements of the mandible after looking at both rotation and translation and shows that the middle of these combined movements is on the Dens of the Axis.  The DENS is the centrer of rotation for mandibular movements.  NUCCA is the National Upper Cervical Chiropractic Association which is a group of Chiropractors with special traing and focus on the upper cervical spine.  A?O or Atlas Orthoganol Chiropractors utilize a specific adjustment technique for the upper cervical spine.  

This is an important area of concern for TMJ Patients because of postural connections of the jaw, jaw joints, head and upper cervical areas in creating homeostasis.  Even small changes in jaw position can affect the upper cervical spine.  Changes in head position due to upper cervical spine can crearte TMJ symptoms.

CO stands for Centric Occlusion.  It describes where the upper and lower teeth fit together with mouth closure.  MIP .is the Maximal Intercuspal Position where occlusion is totally seated even if it means a pathological slide.

CR   or Centric Relation is a more complicated issue, it is an artificial location that has at least 26 different definitions and is utilized to transfer information to an articulator be CR dentists.  CR Dentists believe that joint position of the condyle in the Fossa are key to Occlusion.  CR may be very different depending on who is determining the position.  A CR Occlusion or Centric Relation occlusal scheme will usually have a CR-CO slide because most patients cannot tolerate the CR border position and create a new centric occlusion to function.    I Do Not Utilize CR or Centric Relation position.  Long Centric is another definition of this discrepancy between CR and CO.  CO is sometimes called MIP maximum intercuspal position or a fully seated CP which may actually require some adaptive movement of the tooth in the socket which is allowed by the periodontal ligament.  This freedom disappears with implants that are immovable.

Myocentric is the neuromuscular occlusion utilized by Neuromuscular Dentists.  NMD is short for Neuromuscular Dentistry.  There are many amazing videos about NMD at   It is where the teeth meet when the muscles move the jaw from rest position to closure.  There should be minimal muscle adaptation and following closure the jaw should return to rest position and the muscles should maintain health and normal function.  Myocentric is a reset position for the mandible that allows function without inducing muscle pathology.  It is specifically designed not to induce MPD or myofascial Pain.

TENS and ULF-TENs are abbreviations for Transcutaneous Neural Stimulation and Ultra Low Frequency TENS.  Neuromuscular Dentistry utilizes ULF TENS to relax the muscles to create a healthy physiological condition in the muscles which is necessary to find neuromuscular rest and to determine neuromuscular occlusion.  Creating a healthy musculature is an important first step in neuromuscular dentistry.  EMG is Electromyography which is used to measure the electrical activity of the muscles.  MKG is a Mandibular Kinesiograph often called a CMS or computerized Mandibular Scan.  It measures in real time three dimensional movement of a magnet attached to the mandible that allows precise measurement of the magnet and infer what is happening during mandibular function.

The ULF-TENS sends current thru the coronoid notch bilaterally and causes a single synapse contraction of all of the mandibular elevator muscles as well as all other Trigeminal Nerve and Facial Nerve innervated  muscles.  The underlying basis of NMD is healthy muscles.  The condyle assumes a position within the joint based on health muscle tone.  The condyle is never forcer into an unstable orthopedic border position like CR but it can go there.

Changing the position of the head can change jaw relations and changing jaw position can change head position.  It is important to establish a very stable jaw position in neuromuscular dentistry, this is done with a diagnostic neuromuscular orthotic.

The AES is the American Equilibration Society and is the oldest TMJ organization.  I have been to their meeting for 30 years but in general the majority of members believe in CR Based occlusion.

ICCMO is the International College of CranioMandibular Orthopedics and it is primarily Neuromuscular Trained dentists  It was founded by Barney Jankelson the “Father of Neuromuscular Dentistry” as a non-commercial scientific organization.  Typically, the best neuromuscular dentists are ICCMO members.

NMD stands for either NeuroMuscular Dentistry or Dentists.  This is the philosophy of treatment where muscle health is center to all treatment.

OFP is short for OroFacial Pain or Oral Facial Pain.  This is pain centered in the head and facial regions.  Some orofacial pain doctors do not look at TMJ disorders as primarily physical medicine issues but believe they are best managed by medications.  There is a wide spectrum of doctors who treat orofacial pain but there is a group that is seeking specialty even after being denied specialty by the ADA or American Dental Association multiple times.  They are now creating a specialty outside of the ADA, a dangerous precedent.  The AAOP is the American Academy of OroFacial Pain.  This group does not believe occlusion or how teeth meet have anything to do with TMJ disorders.  They tend to utilize prescription medications and CBT or cognitive behavioral therapy a lot.  Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is valuable for many disorders.

CMD stands for CranioMandibular Dysfunction or dysfunction it the articulation which would include TMD and MPD and maybe cervical issues.  CMCD is CranioMandibular Cervical Dysfunction.

AACP is the American Academy of CranioFacial Pain and was previously the AAHNFP or the Academy of Head Neck and Facial Pain.

SPG Blocks were made famous in the best selling book “MIRACLES ON PARK AVENUE!   Celebrities and patients flocked to see Dr Mlton Reder in NYC for these blocks.  

SPG stands for Sphenopalatine Ganglion also called the Pterygomandibular Ganglion, Sluders Ganglion, Nasal Ganglion or Meckel’s Ganglion.  It is located on the maxillary branch of the Trigeminal Nerve and is associated with many of the autonomic and stress related aspects of TMJ and MPD disorders.  Many believe the TMJ disorders were first described in 1908 by Sluder as Sluder’s Neuralgia others believe this is the first description of cluster headaches.  SPG Blocks can be self-administered and are one of the most amazing treatments for a wide variety of issues.

SPG Blocks  are often used in treatment of TMJ Disorders, Migraine and Cluster headaches.

Learn more about SPG Blocks at

ADD and ADHD are often associated with TMJ disorders because of common developmental patterns of sleep apnea and TMJ.  Sleep disordered breathing is primary cause of both Attention Deficit Disorder and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

RSD stands for Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy more commonly called CRPS today or Complex Regional Pain Syndrome.

In Sleep issues we have AADSM or American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine, the AASM or American Academy of Sleep Medicine, DOSA the Dental Organization for Sleep Apnea.  SA or Sleep Apnea, AHI= Apnea-Hypopnea Index, AI= Apnea Index, RDI = Respiratory distress index, RERE is Respiratory Related Arousal , UARS is Upper Airway Resistance Syndrome which is related to Fibromyalgia via the Alpha Intrusion into Delta Sleep.  REM is short for Rapid Eye Movement seen during dream sleep.

NIH is National Institute of Health.  The NIDCR is the National Institute of Dental and Facial Research who believes TMJ (TMD) is not related to occlusion but the NHLBI or National Heart Lung and Blood Institute  of the NIH wrote the report “Cardiovascular and Sleep Related Consequences of TemporoMandibular Disorders”  The HPA Axis is the Hypothalamus-Pituitary- Adrenal System that includes the reticular Activating System and is part of the Limbic system where we feel emotions.  Pain is an emotional response to noxious input.  Neuromuscular Dentistry addresses the HPA by stimulation of the SPG with ULF-TENS.  The is control of the autonomic nervous system with science .  This has been shown to increase permeability of the Blood Brain Barrier.…

Myofascial Pain And Dysfunction: MPD, The Muscular Component of TMJ Disorders

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Muscle pain and stiffness can be caused by Myofascial Pain Syndrome

myofascial-pain-chicagoMyofascial Pain Syndrome (MPD) is a chronic pain disorder that puts a lot of pressure on certain points in your muscles, which tends to cause pain in other parts of your body that are not directly related to where this pain began. These pressure points, which are located  in taut bands within the muscle, are often called ‘trigger points’ because they’re responsible for the ‘triggering’ of muscle pain that can be felt in other seemingly unrelated parts of your body (also known as referred pain).

When someone is diagnosed with Myofacial Pain Syndrome, their main complaint is feeling muscle pain in their lower back,head,  neck, shoulders and chest area. This pain can range from being very mild to being very extreme, with those diagnosed often feeling a mild aching or burning up to an intense stinging sensation. If you’re someone who’s been recently diagnosis with Myofacial Pain Syndrome, we understand how it can be difficult to get through the day due to your feeling this pain.

There’s a relationship between Myofascial Pain and TMJ as both syndromes directly affect the jaw area. TMJ is an actual disorder of the jaw that directly affects the jaw, jaw joints and the adjoining facial muscles, which in turn causes muscle pain and soreness. Although Myofascial Pain Syndrome is also commonly experienced in the jaw area, it doesn’t stem from any previous disorder.

TMJ and MPD are both frequently caused by repetitive motion injuries.  A motion that is totally comfortable when done once or a few times a day can cause serious problems when it is repeated thousands of time a day.  An example would be a deviate swallow.  We swallow 2000 times a day and doing it incorrectly thousands of times a day for weeks, months or years can create very painful trigger points of MPD.

There’s also a difference between Myofascial Pain Syndrome and Fibromyalgia. Any pain and discomfort felt by those who have been diagnosed with Fibromyalgia tends to be located in one area, with those with a Myofacial Pain Syndrome diagnosis experiencing pain in many areas of their body.

Painful Spots and Trigger Points in MPD

Trigger points refer to certain areas located within a particular muscle that are more sensitive. When this sensitive area experiences any type of pressure, this pressure can easily cause muscle pain to spread to other parts of the body. Some of the more common trigger points affect the head and jaw include:

  • Temporalis Muscle (chewing muscle)
  • Masseter Muscle (facial muscle)
  • Medial Pterygoid Muscle (sinuses)
  • Lateral Pterygoid Muscle (cheeks and joint)
  • Trapezius (neck, shoulders, back)
  • Posterior Cervical Muscle Group (neck)
  • Splenius Capitis (neck, head)
  • Occipital Muscles (neck)

Stop the Muscle Pain

beautiful young woman has a pain in the neckCurrent treatments for Myofascial Pain include Trigger Point Injections, Dry Needling, Spray and Stretch, massage, accupressure, myotherapy  and an Occipital Nerve Block. Trigger Point Injections can help relieve your pain quickly and works by having a small needle containing a numbing ingredient inserted directly into a trigger point.  The trigger point actuall will disappear after the injection, often permanently.  Dry Needling is a method that uses acupuncture needles in order to puncture a trigger point, which helps the muscles to relax. The Spray and Stretch treatment option works by spraying a vapocoolant directly on the trigger point, which is going to relieve pain by acting as a counter-irritant. The use of an Occipital Nerve Block is also an option and works by using a local anesthetic in order to temporarily freeze the part of the body that’s experiencing pain.

Because Myofacial Pain is often experienced in the jaw area, it’s definitely worth your time to see how dental treatments may be able to help alleviate any of your current muscle pain by using highly beneficial TMJ treatments.  Physiologic Dentistry utilizes ULF-TENS that can help eliminate MPD.

Find Out What’s Right For You

In order for you to figure out what the best treatment is going to be for you, you’re going to need a full evaluation in order to determine the exact cause of your pain. Be sure to contact us today so we can work directly with you in order to determine what treatment is going to ultimately work best for you.