Side effects are an unfortunate reality of many medical conditions. Side effects can even sometimes be worse than the primary condition itself. Side effects can often range from the mildly annoying to the unbearable, and there’s really no rhyme or reason as to who experiences them and who doesn’t.
Such is the case with the painful side effects of a condition known as ankyloglossia, or tongue tie. Though tongue tie is present at birth, it can often go unnoticed or untreated until adulthood, causing pain and discomfort throughout the body.
A tongue tie happens when there is an unusually short or thick band of tissue (known as the lingual frenulum) tightly tethering the tongue to the floor of the mouth. In infants, tongue ties can cause problems with breastfeeding. It can also affect how children swallow, eat and speak.
Often, however, there are no symptoms of tongue tie, and children with this condition exhibit no signs of tongue tie beyond the tongue tie itself. Those are the lucky ones. But many more adults who were born with tongue ties may show painful side effects that can cause significant discomfort and trouble later in life.
Here’s why a tongue tie can hurt your neck and back and what you can do to alleviate this often-debilitating discomfort.
Tongue Tie Side Effects
Tongue tie side effects that are present in adults can include the same issues that are present in children, including trouble chewing and speaking. But did you know tongue ties in adults can also cause pain, such as degenerative neck conditions and back pain?
In addition to these painful side effects, tongue tie can also cause a host of painful problems:
Immobile sternum can be caused when the mouth and jaw’s fascial, muscular and neural connections cause stiffness. This stiffness has been known to cause an alteration to breathing patterns, rib pain, lung restrictions, cardiac restrictions in the sternopericardial and sternopleural attachments, and thoracic pain.
Tightness can show up in the upper neck and skull base, which may promote headaches, neck pain and even trouble swallowing. Tightness can also occur in the sacrum, pelvis, hands, arms and back.
Tension occurs in the front of the neck and the muscles along the sides of the neck. One side of the neck may hurt more than the other.
Bone and cartilage tension can make it difficult to speak and swallow. A tight or short frenulum may cause difficulty moving the tongue from side to side, and the tension may be worse on one side than the other.
Hiatal hernias can occur when the bone and cartilage cause tension throughout the esophagus and down to the stomach. This can cause heartburn and acid reflux as well.
Muscle and jaw tightness can occur between the chin and the throat and pull the jaw down and back. This can cause temporomandibular joint dysfunction, or TMJD, a painful condition of the jaw that can cause neck pain, back pain, tinnitus, tooth grinding (bruxism), migraine headaches, difficulty speaking, difficulty chewing, and the inability to open and close your mouth.
Tightness in the mouth floor can occur because the tongue cannot lift up to the roof of the mouth, meaning the muscles become tight and can be very painful.
Cheek muscle tightness/jaw tightness can occur when the cheek muscles become overworked. Cheek muscles can become overworked when the frenulum is tight and irritates the temporomandibular joint.
Sleep apnea has many causes, but tongue tie can contribute to the condition by constricting the airways and making it difficult to breathe while sleeping.
Speech and breathing problems, such as mumbling, quiet speaking, or having a “gravelly” voice and sore throat.
Mouth breathing can be dangerous because it can cause you to hyperventilate or have poor diaphragm mechanics.
Treating Tongue Tie
Thankfully, there are ways to treat tongue ties in adults, just as there are treatment options for children. Dr. Tad Morgan offers a frenectomy, or tongue tie release surgery. This procedure loosens the restrictive tissue to allow the tongue a full range of motion.
The frenectomy procedure is done by using a soft-tissue laser that has minimal discomfort and maximum effectiveness. A laser frenectomy does not require stitches and has minimal bleeding as compared to traditional surgery, which requires a scalpel and stitches.
Patients who undergo a frenectomy can expect improved eating, breathing and speaking. However, figuring out how to use your unrestricted tongue most efficiently may take some time. This is where myofunctional therapy comes in.
Tongue Tie and Myofunctional Therapy
Myofunctional therapy is a technique that uses tongue exercises to help you improve your muscle tone and coordination following your frenectomy. You may also be prescribed speech therapy if speech issues have been a problem before or after your frenectomy.
To learn more about your frenectomy options or our myofunctional therapy, don’t hesitate to get in touch with Dr. Morgan’s office for a consultation today!