Do you have pain in your jaw? Does your mouth click every time you open it? Do you get headaches? These are questions I frequently ask my patients, yet many patients do not realize that these aches and pains are treatable, especially by chiropractors. Patients will commonly say that they grind their teeth, or always have tension in their jaw, but they have learned to live with it and it is just “one of those things”. The temporomandibular joint (TMJ), or jaw, as we commonly call it, and its surrounding muscles, respond very well to conservative hands-on therapy. Trained clinicians such as chiropractors and physiotherapists are able to help reduce the pain and dysfunction you may be experiencing.
The TMJ acts like a sliding hinge joint that connects your jaw bone to your skull, and is the most used joint in our body. The muscles needed for chewing surround this joint, and the motions of the jaw allows us to move our mouths open and shut, side to side, and allow us to talk. TMJ dysfunction often presents as pain in the ears, jaw, eyes, and throat, and can also cause neck pain and headaches. Many individuals with TMJ dysfunction have difficulty chewing hard foods, or may experience painful locking or catching of the jaw with movement.
"TMJ pain is more prevalent in women and is present in an estimated 15% of the population." However, only 3-7% of adults with TMJ symptoms seek help for their pain – we need to change this! Headaches are also much more common in individuals with TMJ dysfunction – up to 85% of those with jaw pain experience headaches, as opposed to 20% of the general population.
What Causes TMJ Pain?
- There is a small disc in between the bones of the joint, which in normal circumstances allows for smooth movement of the jaw. However, sometimes the muscles around the joint can become irritated, the disc becomes displaced, or there is arthritis in the joint which can cause popping, clicking, pain, or the inability to open your jaw as wide as you were once able.
- There are 3 main categories of TMJ pain:
- Myofascial pain – this is the most common, and happens when the muscles that control the jaw become very tight
- Internal derangement, or a dislocated or displaced disc
- Degenerative joint disease – mostly commonly known as arthritis, or wear and tear of the joint over time
- Trauma to the jaw or neck, stress, hyperlaxity, or grinding or clenching your teeth are other factors that can cause dysfunction of the TMJ
What Can A Clinician Do?
- Joint mobilization or manipulation
- Helps to restore proper motion in the joint
- Soft tissue therapy
- Helps to release tension in the muscle surrounding the joint. We often access these muscles form the inside of a person’s cheek, and will sometimes use vibration therapy to aid in releasing the muscle tension
- Helps to relieve inflammation, pain, and tension of the muscles
- Laser therapy
- Helps to increase the healing process at a cellular level and can reduce inflammation surrounding the joint
- Therapeutic exercises
- Helps to strengthen the muscles surrounding the joint and alleviate pain
- Changes to self-care can also be beneficial in reducing TMJ symptoms. These changes may include eating softer foods, applying ice packs, and/or gently massaging the tissue to help reduce stress
To learn more or to book an appointment call Choice Health Centre at 902-404-3668 or an book an assessment online.