Ever heard of a “TMJ” issue? Ever had jaw pain? I’m fortunate that I haven’t, but I’ve seen it over and over again at the office and thought I’d share a bit about the jaw.



TMJ stands for Temporomandibular Joint. TMJ disorders are a set of conditions that involve pain along with limited range of motion in the jaw. The jaw is a sliding hinge joint that is connected to the skull through 68 muscle pairs located in front of the ears. These muscle pairs are important for speaking, chewing, swallowing, and yawning, and are among the most frequently used in your body.
What causes TMJ disorders?
TMJ disorders can be caused by a variety of factors, often in combination. This means that it can sometimes be difficult or impossible to isolate the exact cause of a patient’s problem. There is a disk in the jaw known as the articular disk, which separates the skull from the condyle head of the mandible. Misalignment of this disk (often from stress-related clenching and grinding of the teeth) is a frequent cause of TMJ disorders. TMJ disorders also can be caused by missing or crowded teeth, or even sleeping on your side with your hand under your face, or trauma including whiplash. Experts estimate that anywhere from 10 million to 35 million Americans suffer some form of TMJ disorder at any given time.
Symptoms of TMJ disorders include pain and stiffness upon opening or closing the mouth, or a cracking, grinding or popping sound when using the joint. The condition creates significant wear on the joint and can have serious consequences for normal daily use of your jaw.
What can be done?
Chiropractors are experts in diagnosing and treating musculoskeletal problems, including TMJ disorders. Their specialized training and experience in using manual therapies to realign joints make them particularly well-suited to treating TMJ disorders. In order to understand your case, it’s important to look at all aspects of your lifestyle and a complete medical history. X-rays are also occasionally useful in helping to locate the condyle head of the mandible and checking the positioning of the articular disk. Often there is a correlation to the upper cervical spine also. Palpating the area also helps to establish the severity of the condition.
Chiropractic treatment for TMJ disorders focuses on relieving tension in the many muscles of the jaw and possibly the neck and upper back as well. With treatment, I aim to “even out” the muscles on each side of the jaw. If stress is one of the causes of your TMJ disorder, certain exercises and relaxation techniques can be very useful to relieving the symptoms.
What should a patient expect from treatment?
The result of these treatments is usually greater range of motion in the jaw joint, which not only relieves jaw pain but also addresses joint locking and popping, headaches, and neck pain; however, one of the key benefits of chiropractic care for TMJ disorders is that it goes beyond addressing the immediate symptoms and can often prevent TMJ from becoming a recurring or chronic condition. Plus, chiropractic care doesn’t involve the risks that come with drugs or surgery. It’s this combination of effectiveness and safety that makes chiropractic care such an attractive treatment option.
Everyone’s body is different. If you or someone you care about is suffering from a TMJ disorder and is wondering whether chiropractic care can help, we encourage you to call or visit our office today. We’ll be happy to answer any questions and explain our overall approach. Remember—we’re here to help!

(The contents of this column are provided for general informational purposes only and are not intended as a substitute for professional health care advice. Do not use the information in this column for diagnosing or treating any medical or health condition.)

 

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