Can trismus worsen?

arkj program head neck rehab wildflower therapy Oct 05, 2022
3 Fingers Rule

Following treatment of cancer within the oropharynx trismus can worsen. There are many levels of damage after radiation. These levels of damage occur at the molecular level, the cellular level, nerve level, musculoskeletal level, tissue level and the lymphatic system level. The body experiences what is known as radiation fibrosis syndrome.

Radiation fibrosis syndrome is caused by several factors. One factor that results in worsening trismus involves higher density of myofibroblasts combined with inflammation within the cellular level. Our patients are cancer free. However, the side effects following treatment negatively impact our quality of life. These symptoms combined with xerostomia, also known as dry mouth, dysphagia or difficulty swallowing and challenges with oral care result in frustration and pain.

What can a patient do to improve their outcome following treatment?
1. Ensure that a referral to a physical therapist, occupational therapist or speech language pathologist who is trained in trismus occurs prior to onset of trismus.
2. Advocate to your doctor requesting that you or your loved one see a clinician for education and monitoring on the three-finger rule daily.
3. Initiate a home exercise program with your therapist to monitor and stretch daily.