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TMJ – Temporomandibular Joint Disorders

What is TMJ?

The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) connects your lower jaw (mandible) to your skull, with one joint each side.

The structure of the TMJ enables a significant amount of motion that is used in different ways for speech and for chewing food.

It has two movements, rotation and sliding hinge. The TMJ first rotates then slides forward along a meniscus (articular disc) before rotating further. This special motion allows for a combination of opening movements that allow you to move your jaw up and down and side to side and even translate it forward. The smooth movement it can perform allows you to talk, sing, yawn and chew. Chewing can demand opening and closing but also grinding from side to side; as a result, the TMJ can move differently on the right to the left to provide side to side translation.

If you are experiencing pain in this area it may also be referred to as a temporomandibular disorder or TMD.

What Causes TMJ Pain?

Like all joints the TMJ has many parts including the muscles, nerves, blood vessels and articulating cartilage surfaces that cap the bones. Uniquely the joints are separated by a disc of cartilage to help keep your jaw movement smooth and assist in the forward sliding movement.

Pain can be initiated from any change to the proper functioning of the joint. Almost always injury to the TMJ is accompanied by a change to the smooth glide and you may find that, when you view your jaw movement from the front, the jaw deviates to one side, clunks or produces a tearing noise. This is because the movement on one side is not matched by the other side. This is also known as temporomandibular dysfunction (TMD).

The TMJ has a very developed nerve supply and, just as your teeth are sensitive, the TMJ can be sensitive to changes to good function; this can be felt as pain.

Importantly the muscles of the TMJ attach to the skull, the front of the spine or to the hyoid bone and any tightness and injury at these areas can play a role in the altered function of the TMJ – they need to be checked. This is also why those reporting TMJ pain can also report headaches, ear pain, neck pain and throat pain or sensation.

Chiropractors can often help with TMJ pain and symptoms and a thorough assessment of the associated structures will provide important clues in helping deal with this tricky problem.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of TMJ?

  • Pain in the jaw or muscle tenderness
  • Joint tenderness
  • Difficulty opening the mouth when talking or chewing
  • Popping, grinding and clicking in the TMJ
  • Inability to open your jaw as wide as possible with comfort
  • Pain on chewing
  • Ongoing tooth pain
  • Neck pain
  • Throat pain
  • Headaches
  • Ear Symptoms

How Can I Manage TMJ Pain?

woman holding her jaw in painChiropractors can often help with TMJ issues and associated pain. They can help determine what components are from the TJM, neck, throat and sometimes the skull – often referred to as cranial faults.

Depending on the type of injury your chiropractor has a number of different methods to help restore good movement and function and allow the TMJ to heal. Chiropractic care can potentially reduce the amount of facial pain experienced as a result of TMJ/TMD.

Chiropractors can help with a technique called intraoral myofascial release. This technique has been proven to release the muscles surrounding the joint, accessing them from the inner side of the cheeks. This is a type of cranial work that a skilled chiropractor can apply, often with great effect. Often other forms of care are integrated to help complex problems that have arisen from several causes.

Chiropractors are experts on joints and muscles. The chiropractor will be able to assess the function of the TMJ and help determine the best way to manage your pain.

In some cases, symptoms of TMJ/TMD can resolve by themselves. Taking the following steps may help treat or reverse TMJ-related pain.

  • Eating softer foods
  • Applying ice packs to decrease inflammation
  • Avoiding extreme jaw movements
  • Jaw exercises & gentle stretching
  • Relaxation techniques to help reduce stress

What To Do Now

We are always happy to discuss how chiropractic care may be of benefit to you. Do not hesitate to contact us on 01603 764777 or email at reception@inspiredchiropractic.com to make a convenient time to see the chiropractor. Chiropractic care can help.

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