Does trismus hurt?

head neck rehab Oct 05, 2022

Trismus also known as lock jaw to some people can be painful. Following radiation treatment up to 70% of tumors originating within the oropharynx can result in trismus according to a study completed by Puali et. al in 2016. The difference in risks is highly correlated to the increased radiation dosing the muscles of mastication underwent.

These muscles include the masseter muscles and the pterygoid muscles. Several studies have identified with every 10 Gy of radiation there is a 24% more likely chance that a patient will experience trismus. The pain a patient experiences is associated with a combination of muscle tightness and nerve changes following treatment. The tumors are often gone, doctors will call this NED or no evidence of disease. Patients will call this cancer free! However, the side effects of trismus may worsen over the years.

A patient should continue to be followed by either their radiation oncologist or ear, nose and throat doctor for the years to come following treatment. These physicians will monitor closely the pain associated with trismus and refer to a physical therapist, occupational therapist or speech language pathologist to aide in treatment of the side effects.