The TMJA held its 6th international scientific conference June 5-7, 2011, at the Federation of Societies for Experimental Biology Conference Center in Bethesda, MD.
The topic: Comorbid Chronic Pain Conditions—Mechanism, Diagnosis and Treatments—followed up on the Association’s scientific meeting of 2008, which initially explored the topic of comorbidities (conditions that occur together more often than chance can explain). In the interim, there has been further evidence that TMD patients often experience other chronic pain conditions, including endometriosis, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, migraine and chronic headaches, irritable bowel syndrome, chronic pelvic pain, vulvodynia, and interstitial cystitis.
The meeting was a resounding confirmation that there must be some underlying mechanism that links the conditions in question, and that the answer may lie in the nervous system.
Instead of looking for clues in the end organ—the jaw, the intestine, the reproductive tissues—the focus should be on how the nervous system has changed because of chronic pain, becoming hypersensitive and dysfunctional. This is a paradigm shift and attendees agreed it should inform how future research should be conducted.
The meeting was attended by scientists with unusually diverse research expertise in chronic pain disorders and other research areas. The significance of the meeting was underscored by the participation of seven National Institutes of Health Institutes, Office, and Center Directors; the leaders of four patient advocacy organizations comprising the Chronic Pain Research Alliance; and numerous NIH Program Staff. Following the formal presentations, attendees developed recommendations that are being disseminated to the research community.
Now that the pain issue has been brought to the forefront, the TMJA will encourage research to explore the interactions between the TM joint and the nervous system that give rise to chronic pain.