More than 15 percent of American adults suffer from chronic facial pain, such as jaw pain, headaches or earaches.
To understand the reasons for Facial Pain, you must first understand the different types of Muscular Disorders that can lead to Facial Pain.  There are 6 different categories of Muscular Disorders: Muscle Splinting, Muscle Spasm, Myositis, Fibrous Contracture, Myofascial Pain Dysfunction (MPD), and Fibromyalgia.

Muscle Pain that causes Facial Pain is termed as myalgia.  Facial pain resulting from myalgia is usually from stretching, forceful or sustained contraction, ischemia, hyperemia, or trauma and inflammation.

Muscle Splinting is protective response of our muscles.  Opposite or different muscle groups begin to fire during movement n an attempt to protect the injured part which can also cause facial pain.  (Example: if there is trauma within the Temporomandibular Joint or muscles involved in opening your mouth, the opposite muscles (muscles that are used to close your mouth) will begin firing; thus creating Muscle Splinting which can lead to Facial Pain)  If Muscle Splinting is left untreated the this can lead to Muscle Spasm.

Muscle Spasm is the result of a muscle or muscle group consistently firing (working) and unable to relax.  In this situation, Facial Pain can develop producing a cycling mechanism that tends to perpetuate the condition indefinitely, even after the initiating cause has been eliminated.  When the muscle is under continued contraction it produces bi-products.  Those bi-products are lactic acid, inorganic phosphates, etc.  This collection of toxins within the body can lead to persistent Facial Pain, even after the Spasm has been eliminated.  The resulting diagnosis is Myositis.

Myositis can be defined as a localized inflammation of a muscle.  There are several different causes to myositis: trauma, infection, prolonged Muscle Spasm, and overuse.  If a Myositis is left untreated the resulting Facial Pain would then become termed as Fibrous Contracture.

Patients diagnosed with Fibrous Contracture run the risk of have permanent restriction of motion in the affected area; which can lead to chronic facial pain.

Myofacial Pain Dysfunction (MPD) is Facial Pain of the muscle and its fascia which is characterized by the presence of trigger points.  A trigger point is defined as a hyperirritable spot within a tight band of skeletal muscle or in the muscle’s fascia.  This area can create Facial Pain on compression and can give rise to characteristic referred pain (Facial Pain in other areas), tenderness, and autonomic phenomena (skin turning red, patient sweating when it is compressed, light headedness).

Fibromyalgia is a common rheumatoid disorder of the muscles and bones that does not involve the joints.  It can be described as pain in three of the four quadrants of the body, has been present for three months or longer, and the patient typically complains of arthralgic-like pain with no evidence of articular disorders.

Now that you have read and learned about the different types of Muscular Disorders that can lead to Facial Pain, you can begin to appreciate the importance of obtaining a proper diagnosis and  understanding that just by eliminating the source of your Facial Pain may not be enough to eliminate your Facial Pain.

I look forward to sharing treatment options for these different diagnoses on future blogs.

Helping Patients Live Pain-Free…

Dr Tracy Davidian