Many use the acronym TMJ to refer to a series of painful jaw conditions. However, it is important to note that the letters TMJ themselves do not refer to any particular disorder but to the joint between the jaw and the skull.
What Is TMJ?
TMJ stands for temporomandibular joint. This is a unique joint in the body. It has the ability both to open like a hinge and to glide. Thus, you can open and close your mouth but also move the lower jaw from side to side. Because the TMJ is so special in the way that in connects the mandible to the rest of the skull, the risk for dysfunction exists.
What Is a TMJ Disorder?
As a general rule, for a TMJ problem to be considered a TMJ disorder, it has to fall into one of the following categories:
- Pain or discomfort in either the face or the muscles that are used for opening and closing the mouth.
- Physical problems within the joint such as a displacement of the TMJ disc or a dislocation of the jaw itself.
- A degenerative problem in the joint that may result from arthritis, inflammation, or other disorders.
What Are the Symptoms of TMJ Dysfunction?
TMJ problems may include:
- Jaw, face, or neck pain
- Stiffness or lack of range of jaw movement
- A grating, popping, or clicking sound when the jaw is used
Dealing with Long-Term TMJ Problems
Some TMJ issues are very temporary and can be cared for at home using ice and resting the jaw by eating soft foods and avoiding opening the mouth too wide. For long-term problems, you may need to find the underlying cause. This can be related to the uppermost bones of the neck.
The C1 and C2 are in close proximity to the jaw joint. This explains why jaw pain often radiates toward the neck. Correcting the misalignment may help the TMJ to move back into place naturally. As a result, pain and other symptoms may be reduced. To learn more, schedule a consultation with an upper cervical chiropractor in your area.