Straight Teeth Talk: Don't under estimate muscle trigger point pain

Jan. 8, 2013 at midnight
Updated Jan. 7, 2013 at 7:08 p.m.

By Mac Lee

People underestimate the power of muscles when it comes to pain, just like they underestimate the power of water until they are in the middle of a hurricane. To take it a step further, most people have no idea that symptoms like a headache, migraine, shoulder tightness, back pain, neck pain or ear problems could be because of specific muscle spasms called trigger points.

Because the pain from muscle trigger points can be so severe, people start thinking, "I have a tumor, something is seriously wrong," which only makes sense. If tumors or other serious conditions have been ruled out via CAT scan, MRI or another type of neurological exam, the questions that need to be asked are: Why do I get the trigger point pains? Why do they recur? And is there a way to prevent them so I don't have to be on medication?

For most, the answer is yes, there is help. I am extremely lucky to have world-ranked, 110-meter hurdler and Olympic trials qualifier Chris Thomas as a friend and mentor.

Best of all, he is an expert on trigger points and does massage therapy (deep tissue and wellness) at my office three days a week. We work together on patients who have head and neck pain because of temporomandibular disorders. His job is to balance the muscles, and my job is to balance the teeth and bite.

Let's look at muscle spasms, fatigue and trigger points starting at the opposite end of the body. If one had a foot 1 inch shorter than the other, it would create imbalance in the way a person walked. Over time, and certainly in times of stress, the walking muscles, which include the lower back, could go into spasm and create bed-ridden pain. If the teeth don't fit right, the same principles hold true - except the pain would be in the head, eyes, ears and neck.

Most of us think we "can work through" the sore muscles, but these trigger points need extra treatment. That doesn't mean medication. The best remedy is to have specific massage for that specific area and to be informed of the cause, which is the best way to lessen the possibility of persistent pain. Sometimes, a bite appliance is also in order to keep the muscles in harmony.

Dr. Mac Lee practices in Edna. He is a international speaker to dentists and is an adviser to Dr. Mehmet Oz. To learn more, visit or call 361-782-7191.



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