Let’s face it...we are all under more stress this time of year, and we all tend to eat a bit more food this time of year as well!
When that happens, it’s common for our office to see more people suffering with some jaw pain. This is often referred to as “TMJ” but it can be several different muscles, sometimes it’s actually upper neck problems, and other times it’s a combination of several things. The good news...I can help!
What is TMJ?
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 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 can also be caused by missing or crowded teeth, 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?
Chiropractic physicians 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 is important to look at all aspects of your lifestyle and ask you for a complete medical history. Palpating the area is also essential to establish the severity of the condition.
Chiropractic treatment for TMJ disorders focuses on relieving tension in the muscles of the jaw and possibly the neck and upper back as well. To achieve this relaxation, I often utilize manual trigger point mobilization or manipulation techniques. If stress is one of the causes of your TMJ disorder, certain exercises and relaxation techniques can be very useful to relieving the symptoms. These techniques might include meditation, massage, counseling, and biofeedback. Heat and ice can also be soothing. Home exercise or stretching programs may be helpful as well.
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.)