A recent study appearing in the Journal of Oral Rehabilitation really caught my attention. The authors examined the various sexual hormones (e.g., estrogen, progesterone, testosterone) in a group of women with temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMD). The authors discovered clinically significant progesterone deficiencies linked with TMJ syndrome.
Some in-depth digging uncovered a few other studies that demonstrated the same findings. In fact, researchers documented this correlation between TMJ Syndrome and low progesterone as far back as 2002.
What intrigues me about this relationship is that, although I have never actually measured progesterone levels in a TMJ Syndrome patient, I have noticed a very similar symptom profile in my female TMJ Syndrome population to that of the low progesterone patient’s.
The signs and symptoms of low progesterone include:
- Hair Loss
- Dry Eyes
- Panic Attacks
- Angry or Emotional Outbursts
- Mood Swings
- Muscle Pain
- Breast or Nipple Soreness
- Muscle Spasms
- Abdominal Gas & Bloating
- Low Energy (Fatigue)
- Sleep Problems (Insomnia)
- Skin Problems
- Water Retention
- High Cholesterol
So does TMJ syndrome cause low progesterone?
Actually, nobody knows for sure and this needs study, but my best possible guess is that if there is any causal relationship between these two conditions it is likely that the low progesterone levels may help create or hasten the onset of the TMD. It is known  that the sexual hormones do target and affect some components of the body’s joints including bone, cartilage, collagen, and proteins.
Stress can lead to both TMD and low progesterone
As researchers investigate causal links between low progesterone and TMJ Syndrome, we already know that chronic stress and anxiety can cause both conditions. Stress causes all of us to increase the production of cortisol which is a receptor site competitor with progesterone. By knocking the progesterone out of its normal locus of action, it diminishes the progesterone’s activity levels. Stress and anxiety are also linked with TMD and have been since TMJ syndrome was first characterized. This is likely due to the subconscious jaw grinding and clenching that often occur in patients suffering from anxiety. I also believe that the increased global inflammatory load that occurs with stress is contributory, regardless of the clenching and grinding of the patient.
A multipurpose TMJ syndrome treatment
I have used the herb Turmeric (Curcumin is its major component) as a natural anti-inflammatory agent for some time. Interestingly, turmeric also has demonstrated the ability to raise progesterone levels. I love it when there are these serendipitous correlations. So very interesting…
I will be paying more careful attention to the signs of low progesterone among our many TMJ patients. I have tested the sex hormone levels in women with menopausal or PMS symptoms but never considered checking them in my TMJ patients, until now.
Another piece of the TMD puzzle? I am hopeful.
Integrated Physical Medicine is a chiropractic practice in Evansville, IN with a particular focus on TMJ Syndrome and cervico-craniofacial pain.
- Madani AS, Shamsian AA, et al. “A cross-sectional study of the relationship between serum sexual hormone levels and internal derangement of temporomandibular joint.” J Oral Rehabil. 2013 Aug;40(8):569-73.
- Landi N, Lombardi I, et al. “Sexual hormone serum levels and temporomandibular disorders. A preliminary study.” Gynecol Endocrinol. 2005 Feb;20(2):99-103.