Sympathetically Maintained Pain Presenting First as Temporomandibular Disorder, then as Parotid Dysfunction

Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) is a chronic condition characterized by intense pain, swelling, redness, hypersensitivity and additional sudomotor effects. In all 13 cases of CRPS in the head and neck region reported in the literature, nerve injury was identified as the etiology for pain initiation. In this article, we present the case of a 30-year-old female patient with sympathetically maintained pain without apparent nerve injury. Her main symptoms — left-side preauricular pain and inability to open her mouth wide — mimicked temporomandibular joint arthralgia and myofascial pain of the masticatory muscles. Later, symptoms of intermittent preauricular pain and swelling developed, along with hyposalivation, which mimicked parotitis. After an extensive diagnostic process, no definitive underlying pathology could be identified and a diagnosis of neuropathic pain with a prominent sympathetic component was made. Two years after the onset of symptoms and initiation of care, treatment with repeated stellate ganglion blocks and enteral clonidine pharmacotherapy provided adequate pain relief.