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It started as a harmless, novel click when yawning. But after eight years of living with reduced jaw mobility, acute jaw pain when chewing, and then constant pain throughout her face and neck, Beverly considered surgery for her severe case of TMJ.

Fortunately, Beverly was one of the 90 percent of TMJ arthroscopy patients who experienced successful results from the surgery. But despite the innovative procedures for treating TMJ, the only option she was offered for pain management was a series of oral medications, including muscle relaxants, anti-inflammatory drugs, ibuprofen for pain, steroids, and a series of antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications.

Beverly’s experience illustrates that despite the significant innovations in dental procedures like extractions, implants, TMJ treatments, and even extensive chiropractic procedures, standard pain management procedures offer healthcare providers few options beyond oral medications.

Although oral analgesics medications are foundational for a patient’s recovery, let’s discuss their limitations and explore new topical solutions that can reduce your patient’s dependency on pain medications while innovating pain management treatments.

The Limits of Oral Medications for Pain Management

The main challenges for healing are to reduce inflammation and control pain. Although oral medications are effective, the side effects due to the long-term use of ibuprofen and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can potentially interfere with your patient’s recovery.

For example, Ibuprofen is so easily accessible that it can be easy to forget this drug can cause side effects. When ibuprofen is taken in large doses or over a long period of time, less prostaglandin is produced. This can increase stomach acid and irritate the stomach lining, causing problems.

Along with the risks of gastrointestinal problems, medical advisors at the University of Illinois warn that ibuprofen changes your body’s production of prostaglandins: “This change can lead to an imbalance in your body fluid pressure, which can decrease your kidney function and increase your blood pressure.”

With opioids—such as OxyContin, Vicodin, and Fentanyl—as common choices to treat patients suffering from severe pain, the risks of addiction or prescription abuse devastate millions of families each year. According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), over 10 million Americans misuse opioids at least once within a 12-month period. In fact, 1.6 million Americans qualify as having an opioid use disorder, and over 96 percent of opioid misusers turn to prescription pain relievers.

In light of these health concerns, healthcare providers are searching for alternatives to improve the patient experience with additional options to control pain during recovery.

The Promising New Option for Pain Management

Until recently, the options for pain management were oral pain medications, ice packs, acupuncture, laser therapy, or massage. Now, doctors can add CBD topical cream to their pain relief solutions.

Derived from the cannabis plant, CBD is a chemical compound that has captured the attention of researchers for its health benefits, ranging from controlling seizures and easing arthritis pain to controlling acute and chronic craniofacial pain while reducing inflammation.

Part of what makes CBD cream so effective is that it can be applied directly on the source of joint inflammation.

“There’s a high concentration of cannabinoid receptors in the skin, and when CBD is applied topically, it activates the endocannabinoid system through those receptors,” health writer Amanda Capritto explains. “CBD binds to the cannabinoid receptors in your epidermal and dermal skin, a process that results in alleviation of pain and inflammation.”

In this way, patients like Beverly can better manage their pain during TMJ treatment with lower doses of oral medications supplemented with a medical-grade topical cream that mimics how NSAIDs reduce pain.

“Transdermal CBD therapy consists of massaging a topical skin cream, containing the CBD, in the areas of the masseter and temporalis muscle, as well as to the preauricular area superficial to the TMJ. Holistic Health Therapeutics’ TRC Cream (2.5% transdermal cannabidiol) is a professionally formulated CBD cream containing a higher concentration of CBD,” Robert Marus, DDS, AAACD, explains. “This renders it more effective in penetrating the skin and reducing muscle soreness than over-the-counter creams available in retail stores.”

He adds that a distinct advantage of this CBD cream is that it can be applied as frequently as needed, especially during the day when an occlusal splint is not usually worn. This provides the patient with a better result from a traditional night guard.

“TRC™ has been consistently effective in relieving facial and cervical muscle pain in my patients suffering from acute and chronic craniofacial pain. It is surprising how quickly it works,” Steven Olmos, DDS, founder of TMJ & Sleep Therapy Centres International, says.

As oral care, holistic healthcare, and chiropractic industries continue to pursue varied surgical, nonsurgical, and interventive ways to treat patients, the options available for pain management should expand as well. With CBD topical cream, patients can target the relief they need, where and when they need it, and without the risks often associated with taking large doses of oral pain medications over a long time.