TMJ and swollen lymph glands in the neck

by Kay
(United States)

Hello. I am a 43 year old woman who has had orthodontic braces for 2 1/2 years. Late last year I was fitted with an "MDA" wire which required wearing elastic bands between the top and bottom teeth at any time I wasn't eating. While the appliance has since been removed (I am still in braces), I believe it triggered TMJ and now I am suffering from constant jaw and neck pain and stiffness.

I also have swollen lymph nodes in my neck and head and a lump / swelling on my cervical vertebrae. I have had a CT scan, Ultrasound and X-Ray that have showed nothing (other than enlarged lymph nodes). A recent blood test (complete blood panel) showed one type of white cell as low and another as high. I am seeing my regular doctor this week to ask what she thinks is going on.

I have not been sick nor do I feel ill at all - just the pain and tension which is constant. When I stretch my jaw (mostly by opening wide and then relaxing, repeatedly), I get temporary relief from my symptoms. I would welcome any feedback you can offer.

Hello Kay,
Firstly, the diagnosis of those enlarged lymph nodes has to be made. That is paramount; and could be the underlying cause of all your neck and TMJ symptoms.

I must be honest and say that I have some doubts about braces. What was the reason for having them? I get many letters from folk who develop TMJ pain after orthodontic treatment.

Look carefully at the graphic shown; you'll see that the sensory nucleus of the trigeminal nerve, that supplies the jaw joint, is located in the upper neck. For this reason, many folk with TMJ symptoms also have neck pain.

Or, the problem in the neck could be quite independent of all your TMJ symptoms. Or it could be caused by those swollen lymph glands.

My suggestion is to first get those lymph glands seen to, and then have a long chat to your orthodontist. What's his take on the subject?

Then it's time to start looking for a chiropractor who works with the TMJ; not all do, so shop around and make sure the person has some genuine credentials. Ask your doctor for a start.

I hope this contributes, Kay. Please let me know what happens, keeping to this thread.

Dr B


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Aug 19, 2015
Visited with Orthodontist Today
by: Kay

Dr. B:
Thanks for your response. I had a monthly orthodontic appointment / adjustment this morning and visited with the doctor. She referenced an x-ray she had taken of my cervical spine immediately before the braces went on. She said my spine was compensating for the misalignment of my jaw which is reflected in the very straight (up and down) stacking of my first few vertebrae in the x-ray. She said ideally, there should be a gentle curve there and now after wearing braces for 2 1/2 years, my jaw is requiring my cervical spine to adjust (curve) and it could trigger inflammation.

We visited about other symptoms (besides swollen lymph nodes and abnormal white cell counts) and I shared that I have frequent (but brief) cluster headaches, sore throat and sensation of lump on left side of throat as well as tingling, numbness and sensation of hair being pulled at base of skull which is adjacent to the lump left of my spine just above the hairline. I have an appointment with my general practitioner Friday and will keep you updated. I too would like to know the reason behind the swollen lymph nodes and am tired of being told "give it some time" and "wait and see." Thank you!

Hello Kay,
Yes, the cervical spine should have a lordotic curve, that points to old injury to your neck. In many ways, it's an encouragement. It means that your neck pain is probably coming from your neck, and thus very treatable with chiropractic.

Migraine headaches and facial pain are part and parcel of the TMJ syndrome.

Why did you have the prosthetics fitted?

Away now for three weeks.

Dr B

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Interesting challenges of the day

1. Mr S is a 76 year old man with neck pain of some 9 months duration. Luckily, most of the discomfort is upper cervical which is only rarely arthritic; his lower cervical spine is a degenerative mess that I've left alone. After seven treatments his pain and stiffness is 50 percent better, and he's happy in the circumstances. He can sleep through the night now and that makes a huge difference.

2. Mr P is 32 year old man with very severe lower back pain radiating to the big toe which is 30 percent numb. He had an episode three weeks ago, took anti inflammatories and was soon better as is typical of the medial disc herniation. But before it healed, after a trivia it came roaring back, much worse. The characteristic crossed sign was evident; sitting in a chair, straightening the right leg provoked severe left back pain and tingling in the leg. He's doing well.

3. Severe lower back pain is scary; just ask Mrs P. Just watching her get out of the car I she was in trouble; she had a slipped disc at L4 making her lean towards the opposite side; luckily she had no pain in the leg. Despite family pressure that this was far too severe for a chiropractor, she persevered. Within five days she was standing upright, and after two weeks almost painfree. 

Despite a hectic job, she wisely took my advice and stayed home for what I call exercising bed rest.

4. Mr S has had lower back, groin and back of thigh and calf pain for fourth months.

He has a pincer deformity in the hip causing the stabs in the groin, and a degenerative facet causing the sciatica. Both are responding well to chiropractic and he's well pleased; sixty five percent better after three treatments.

5. Mr T is a wise man; he's taken a warning TIA seriously and has lost 15 pounds, and has at least as much again to lose. A change to a low starch diet and half hour daily walk has made the difference; but the walking is making his foot and back miserable. The expensive orthotic is hopeless; luckily his hips and back are fine, but he needs a simple heel lift.

6. I too have had serious lower back issues, luckily fixed by my own chiropractor; so I too have to do my exercises, take care when lifting supers full of honey, gardening and using the chainsaw. Regaining the function of your spine is just as important as the pain.

7. My own granddaughter, only 7 is hypermobile giving her pelvic, knee and ankle issues. Xrays show a mildly dysplastic hip. Years ago we would have called it growing pains. She too regularly needs chiropractic care and luckily responds well. Increased range of motion is more difficult than too stiff in my opinion. Our care is for kids too.

8. This 65 year old lady is a serious gardener; every day she is bending, lifting and digging for 2 to 3 hours a day. It regularly catches her in the sacroiliac joint, so she has a treatment once a month that sorts it out. She does her lower back exercises faithfully.

9. This 88 year old lady is an inspiration; every day she is busy in the community. With a nasty scoliosis she manages very well with a chiropractic adjustment every six weeks and exercises faithfully done.  

10. Mr X is a 71 year old retired man who wants to continue with maintenance care every six to eight weeks; he had suffered from two years of lower back pain when he first came a year ago. He has no discomfort now after 8 chiropractic treatments, but is aware that danger lurks.

11. Mrs C has been having severe headaches, and taking a lot of analgesics. It's a non complicated upper cervical facet syndrome, and she's doing well.

12. Mr D is a 38 old year man with chronic shoulder pain after a rotator cuff tear playing cricket. It responded well to treatment, but he knows he must do his exercises every day; for two years he couldn't sleep on that shoulder.

13. Mr D, a 71 year old man, has a severe ache in the shoulder and midback since working above his head. Trapped nerve tests are negative but he has advanced degenerative joints of Luschka; after just two treatments he is 50 percent better. Can we reach 90?

And so the day goes; chiropractors shouldn't be treating the elderly most medical sites state but that's so much bunkum.

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