Holistic Treatment for Trismus

Feb 22, 12:37 PM

by Katharine Koeppen, RA

Trismus is a painful locking of the jaw caused by irritation and inflammation of the trigeminal nerve. In addition to jaw pain, symptoms may include extreme hypersensitivity of facial skin and scalp, deep ear pain and excessive salivation. This condition usually occurs in cancer patients as a side effect of radiation or chemo for cancers of the jaw, mouth or upper throat. However, the average person is more likely to be afflicted with trismus as a result of injections to the trigeminal during dental work.

The average dentist will tell patients to "just wait it out" or self-massage the jaw. However, trismus demands immediate attention, since the temporomandibular joint can begin to deteriorate in as little as 72 hours after onset of symptoms.

A combination of aromatherapy and bodywork can effectively eliminate trismus. Essential oils of Roman and German chamomile can be applied to the jawline, cheekbone and around the ear to provide pain relief and reduce inflammation. The oils can be applied mixed in a carrier oil, but are more effectively used in a hot compress. If the sedation caused by Roman chamomile is a problem, tarragon can be substituted.

In terms of bodywork, seek out a specialist; it is essential to find a qualified massage therapist or physical therapist trained in intraoral work. Treatment involves myofascial release of the temporalis, masseter, buccinator, auditory meatus and fascia of the scalp and forehead. Once the jaw can be adequately opened, the pterygoids will also need to be released. If the anterior neck muscles are affected, these should be treated as well. Lymphatic drainage of the affected teeth, gums, upper and lower palates and superficial face will eliminate any anaesthesia remaining in the area and assist in pain management. I have also found that deep lymphatic drainage of the affected muscles (especially the temporalis) and ear greatly relieves pain and restores proper muscle tone.

Trismus is an unpleasant condition, but can usually be relieved in one or two sessions of bodywork, supplemented by use of the appropriate essential oils. With a short course of holistic treatment, there is no need to endure the pain of waiting it out!

Oral Cancer Foundation. What is Trismus? Retrieved 22 Feb. 2009 from www.oralcancerfoundation.org/dental/trismus.htm.

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