If you suffer from a temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder, you know just how painful this condition can be. Got pain and discomfort due to TMJ? Your first thought may be: can cannabidiol (CBD) help?
Here we will outline the available research and what it has determined about CBD’s effectiveness when it comes to TMJ pain.
The temporomandibular joint connects the mandible, also known as the lower jaw, to the skull.
Situated on both sides of the head, right in front of the ears, this joint makes it easy to open and close your jaws to talk and eat. TMJ includes a group of health conditions that involve the jaw, but over the years has been abbreviated as TMJD (temporomandibular joint disorder) or TMD (temporomandibular disorders) so as to avoid confusion between the disorder and the actual joint.
Symptoms of TMJD
The most common include jaw pain and pain in surrounding muscles.
Other symptoms may include:
- stiff jaw muscles
- pain in the neck or face
- limited jaw movement
- Jaw locking
- clicking or popping sound
- Jaw shifting (malocclusion) – a difference in how the upper and lower teeth align
You could experience any of these symptoms on one or both sides of your face.
Causes of TMJ Disorders
Most causes of TMJ disorders are not clearly known at this point. Trauma to the jaw or joint could sometimes play a role, in addition to these possible factors:
- Joint erosion
- structural jaw problems that are present at birth
Some health conditions could also play a part in TMJD, including:
- orthodontic braces
- posture that results in straining of the muscles of the face and neck
- diet lacking important nutrients
- lack of sleep
Side note: these factors have not been shown to actually cause TMJD.
TMJ disorders can be treated at home in most cases with home remedies or self-care practices.
Here are some things that could ease TMJ symptoms:
- eat soft foods
- avoid chewing gum and hard or sticky foods (candy, beef jerky, etc.)
- apply ice to lessen swelling
- lessen jaw movements
- lower stress
- use jaw-stretching exercises so as to expand the movement of your jaw
In some serious cases, a doctor can prescribe or suggest:
- Over-the-counter pain medications (i.e., ibuprofen)
- medications designed to relax the jaw muscles
- medications to lessen jaw swelling (corticosteroid drugs)
- bite guards or stabilization splints to prevent teeth grinding
- Botox so as to relax the jaw muscles and nerves
- cognitive behavioral therapy, which can help to lower stress
While rare, corrective dental surgery, joint replacement surgery or arthrocentesis (surgery that removes debris and fluid from the jaw joint) could be recommended by a doctor in serious cases.
Cannabidiol — or CBD for short — is one of more than 120 chemical compounds derived from the cannabis plant. It is definitely the most popular of all of them.
While not intoxicating like its cousin tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is, CBD is associated with many health benefits because it can ease a variety of common conditions.
The three main types of CBD include:
- Full-spectrum CBD. These are all the naturally-available compounds of the cannabis plant, meaning it has some THC in it. Usually, full-spectrum CBD (hemp derived) includes less than 0.3 percent THC. But those THC levels are elevated when flowers have been extracted into the oil.
- Broad-spectrum CBD. This includes naturally-occurring compounds, with the exception of THC. All THC has been removed, leaving behind only a trace amount. Broad-spectrum THC still includes flavonoids and terpenes.
- CBD isolate. The purest form of CBD on the market, this is separated from other compounds in the hemp plant.
How CBD Works
To really know how CBD works, you need to consider the endocannabinoid system (ECS), which is a cell-signaling system first found by researchers in the 1990s who were studying THC.
This system is in the body despite the fact that you either use or don’t use cannabis. It has three main components: endocannabinoids, enzymes and receptors.
Researchers still don’t know all the intricacies of the ECS. It does, however, regulate many functions and processes in the body such as:
- reproduction and fertility
Researchers still don’t really know exactly how CBD will interact with the ECS. But they know it does not bind to CB1 and CB2 (the top two endocannabinoid receptors) in the same manner that THC does.
Some think CBD works by preventing the breakdown of endocannabinoids, which provides a better effect. Still others think CBD binds to a receptor that has yet to be discovered.
The research is ongoing but so far suggests that CBD helps with pain, nausea, and more.
What is the entourage effect?
CBD and THC, the best-known cannabis compounds, have one major difference: THC gives you that “high” feeling but CBD doesn’t.
When they work together, they create the entourage effect.
This is a theory that says, when the cannabis compounds are taken all together, they can offer stronger effects than if they were taken alone.
CBD may help with TMJ
Research on CBD is still taking place, and the studies done on the effectiveness on CBD for TMJ pain is very limited.
A 2019 study revealed that those who experience TMD could see improvement after they use CBD products. In addition, a clinical trial is currently in progress that will determine if CBD, when taken orally, provides pain relief and better jaw function for people who have TMJ disorders.
Specific components of cannabis, CBD included, have all been found to have pain-relieving effects.
Take this 2018 review for example, which equated CBD with the easing of chronic pain.
It includes studies that were performed between 1975 and 2018 to explore many types of pain, including:
- cancer pain
- neuropathic pain
Researchers found that CBD was helpful when it came to pain management and did not trigger any negative side effects.
CBD: is it safe to use for TMJ?
The World Health Organization believes CBD is safe. There are some side effects, though, such as:
- change in appetite
- change in weight
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says you should not buy CBD from companies marketing CBD products as a way to actually treat diseases. Those companies have been issued warning letters.
Currently, only one FDA-approved drug contains CBD and that is Epidiolex. This was designed to treat rare forms of epilepsy. Over the counter CBD products are still not FDA approved.
Always speak with your doctor before trying any CBD products, especially if you’re on any other medications. CBD may interact with certain medications.
Finding a quality CBD product
You’ll find CBD products everywhere these days, but be careful and read the labels before buying. You never know if the product you want is high in quality, as the FDA hasn’t approved any over the counter CBD products yet.
Look for transparency/buy directly
On their websites, CBD companies must be clear and direct regarding how their products are made and where the hemp comes from. This info should come from the company directly, so don’t buy from online marketplaces, such as Amazon. Amazon does not allow CBD product sales, so any listings you see are likely fake.
Once you see a brand you like, do some search to determine if the company has gotten warning letters from the FDA or if it has pending lawsuits. Be sure to check online reviews as well. Just remember that these brand websites likely only publish their positive reviews.
Check the ingredients
Review the product’s listed ingredients. You may be allergic to something so read it carefully. They could also add ingredients that could help with your specific condition.
Look for third-party lab tests
Make sure the proper testing has been done on the product you are interested in. The safest CBD products feature up-to-date certificates of analysis (COAs) originating from reputable third-party labs.
The COA is a good resource to try, as it shows you the amount of CBD and THC each product contains. Make sure those amounts match with what the company claims. The COA will also confirm if the product was tested for contaminants such as heavy metals, mold, and pesticides.
If you do use CBD for TMJ, go with the oil form rather than topicals or gummies. CBD oil, when placed under the tongue, gives you more rapid effects. Read about some top CBD oils here.
Research regarding CBD is still ongoing, but it all looks promising. CBD may ease pain, but the research on CBD for TMJ specifically is limited.
Talk to your doctor before you try CBD, since it could interact with certain medications.
If you want to try CBD for TMJ pain, start with oil rather than gummies or topicals.
Buy only from trustworthy CBD companies with positive reputations and transparency about how their products are made.