Medical Briefs: Falls, TMJ Splints, and Disordered Sleep

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This month we begin a new series to provide quick updates on a variety of health topics- every month there is sure to be a topic pertinent to everyone!

Fall Risk Increases after Older Adults Get New Glasses

EyeglassesIt may seem odd, but improving vision in older adults with a fresh, updated eyeglasses prescription can increase fall risk in those with progressive addition lenses and bifocals, leading to a significant risk of fractures from falling. According to this research study, unaccustomed magnification may cause objects to appear closer or farther than they really are, requiring an adjustment of the vestibular-ocular reflex, distorting vision, especially periphera visionl in the months following a prescription change.

How to mitigate the extra 15% risk of falling? Patients should be aware of the issue, and warned that objects may be closer or further than they think, so move slowly and conservatively. Also, tuck your chin to look through the distance vision part of the lenses when going up and down stairs to improve visual accuracy.

NTI Splint Reduces Muscle Use in Teeth Clenchers/Grinders

NTIWhen looking for a solution for those who grind or clench their teeth, many people end up with the typical mouth guard, intended to protect the top and bottom row of teeth from increased wear from clenching and grinding the teeth at night. However, these cheaper forms of “splints” do nothing to actually relieve stress from the TMJ for those with jaw pain and headaches.

One solution is a NTI-TSS (Nociceptive Trigeminal Inhibition Tension Suppression System) splint custom-made by dentists who specialize in this type of splint. The splint actually acts to separate the teeth and jaw, relaxing muscles that would be “on” while clenching and teeth grinding due to the location of the splint between the front teeth.

Some small research studies raise concerns that the splint may have side effects like creating an “open bite” or that it is less effective in reducing wear on the molars and separating the teeth.  However, in a review of five published studies on the device, the NTI splint is very effective at relieving TMJ dysfunction and managing bruxism (teeth grinding/clenching), and can be an emergency device for relieving acute TMJ pain.  This splint is always our recommended solution for night-time bruxism to reduce neck pain, jaw pain, and headaches.

Avoiding Sleep Problems for those with Chronic Pain

In a small study of fifty patients with chronic pain, physical therapists found that patient with chronic pain frequently have sleep issues related to high activity levels during the day, in direct contrast with the effects of activity on sleep in the general population. The reason? High levels of activity without pacing high level activities can cause pain flares that interrupt sleep in people with chronic pain. The more pain sites and higher levels of pain correlated with reduced time spent sleeping and more sleep interruptions on a given day.

The takeaway? If you suffer from chronic pain, remember to pace your higher-level activities. Whether prepping for a rummage sale, doing spring cleaning, re-doing the landscaping, or moving, taking frequent breaks and using ice or heat to assist with pain control is the best way to reduce the negative impact of activities on sleep.