Jaw pain from TMJ dysfunction can cause long standing discomfort and frustration. Combining alignments, myofascial release and specific rehabilitation techniques can help.
The TMJ (temporomandibular joint) is a joint that connects the jaw to the skull. It's located almost directly in front of the ear canal. When pain, tightness, or clicking is present within the TMJ joint, it is referred to as TMJD (temporomandibular joint disorder).
Some people experience this pain continuously for many years, while others may only have a brief encounter. TMJD's other common features can include neck pain, headaches, earaches, difficulty opening the mouth fully, having a hard time chewing, and a jaw that gets stuck.
A thorough history is helpful to rule out other conditions such as dental or inner ear problems. Next, an exam with a chiropractor that specializes in TMJ treatment helps identify issues within the joint. An assessment typically includes evaluating the jaw range of motion, degree of clicking, amount of muscular tension in the jaw and neck, head posture, and neck alignment.
TMJ disorder treatments will vary depending on the degree of pain and exam findings. Acute inflammatory pain is usually relieved with ice and anti-inflammatory medications. However, TMJ pain lasting longer than two weeks warrants an appointment with a TMJ specialist.
Because the TMJ is a joint, it is treated similarly to other muscular-skeletal structures in the body. For example, myofascial release, stretches, mobilizations, and rehabilitation help treat the TMJ.
Myofascial release for TMJ can reduce muscle pain and tension while promoting an overall healing response. Stretching nearby tight muscles can help with relaxation and improve jaw opening. Rehabilitation will help strengthen the coordination of intricate muscles needed for proper jaw mechanics.
Chiropractors specializing in TMJ treatments can also perform specific mobilization techniques for the jaw. These mobilizations are gentle and rhythmic, which slowly increase jaw opening. There are also precise muscles that can be massaged using a glove within the mouth. Combining all of these techniques helps increase the likelihood of success.
The neck and jaw are biomechanically connected, making neck posture and alignments a necessary component for treatment. Chiropractors specializing in TMJ can provide spinal adjustments that help restore proper neck alignment and movements. After neck posture is improved, corrective rehabilitation exercises can strengthen the muscles necessary to maintain good posture.
Opening the jaw too wide or biting down on something too hard will sometimes bring on TMJD symptoms. In other instances, inflammation or disc displacement will occur without any known cause or explanation.
There is a cartilage disc within the TMJ that acts as a cushion between the bones of the jaw. When the cartilage disc is pulled forward, it dislocates, causing the jaw to click. Sometimes jaw clicking can be reduced or eliminated with corrective therapies and rehabilitation.
Stress, anxiety, and depression do not cause TMJ; however, stress can exacerbate symptoms. When the body is under chronic stress, associated muscle tension complicates TMJ disorder. For example, stress and anxiety create neck and jaw tightness and amplify pain pathways in the nervous system. A final component of stress is bruxism (teeth grinding) which aggravates the TMJ by putting increased pressure on the joint.
You've already seen that stress contributes, which means that stress management techniques are helpful. Examples of stress management are breathing techniques, exercise, yoga, journaling, or any activities that you find enjoyable and relaxing.
Avoiding gum chewing, nail-biting, and eating hard or chewy foods are helpful strategies. These activities cause unnecessary pressures on the joint and should be avoided while the TMJ is recovering.
In some instances, a custom-made guard from a dentist can help with jaw alignment or reduce bruxism forces on the TMJ.
Getting assistance from a TMJ specialist can help you discover personalized stretches and exercises to reduce symptoms and speed up healing.
Some acute bouts of TMJ can self-resolve within two weeks. If you're experiencing pain longer than two weeks, you should seek a TMJ specialist to assist. Results with treatment for TMJ vary depending on the cause and severity. However, many patients will notice improvement within 4-6 treatment sessions.
In more complicated cases, success will depend on how active the patient is with self-corrective stretches and exercises. These more complex TMJ cases can resolve over several months with a better understanding of corrective therapy.
Whether you're looking for answers and solutions to a complicated condition, or just need a body tune-up, our office can help.
We specialize in leading, non-invasive therapies that restore alignment, enhance movement, and promote healing.
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