When we talk of arthritis, people often associate it with stiffness and pain in the hands, knees, and elbows. What most people don’t know is that arthritis can also affect the jaw, particularly the temporomandibular joint (TMJ).
Arthritis can have an impact on any joint in the body and the surrounding tissues. Being the most heavily used joint, the TMJ is no exception. What types of arthritis affect the TMJ? Are there pain relievers for arthritis-related discomfort in the jaw?
We will provide answers to these questions in this post and go over some solutions for this type of jaw pain. Moreover, we will introduce a natural therapy that may help alleviate the jaw pain caused by arthritis.
Overview of the Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ)
The TMJ can both open like a hinge and glide, which is a major reason for its uniqueness and complexity. Unknown by many, there are two TMJs in the body located in front of each ear. The joints attach the mandible to the skull. Also, they are essential for talking, eating, yawning, and making facial expressions.
A medical term for problems with the jaw joint is temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMD), or simply temporomandibular joint disorder. TMJ disorders do not only affect the jaw, but they may also have an impact on the ears, cheeks, and the rest of the face.
Common Signs of TMJ Pain Due to Arthritis
Arthritis could be the reason for your TMJ pain and discomfort if you complain of the following:
- Jaw pain or tenderness
- Pain on the sides of your face or ears
- Dislocation of the jaw
- Jaw clicking or locking
- Trouble eating hard, chewy foods
- Difficulty opening or closing the mouth
- Scraping noise in your jaw joints
Types of Arthritis That Can Result in TMJ Pain
This refers to the wear and tear of the protective cartilage that cushions the bone ends of joints. Osteoarthritis of the TMJ is unilateral, meaning it only affects one side of the face.
Aside from the pain, it can result in limitation in range of motion and a crunching sound in the temporomandibular joint. These issues lead to difficulty in opening the mouth wide. Some of its other symptoms are earache, toothache, and head pain.
This kind of arthritis is due to an autoimmune disorder. It develops when the immune system mistakenly attacks tissues of perfectly healthy joints, causing inflammation.
A study showed that around 90% of rheumatoid arthritis patients might also have TMD. Rheumatoid arthritis affects the jaw joint the same way it affects the rest of the body’s joints. It causes tissue damage, inflammation, and bone erosion of the TMJ.
TMJ disorder due to rheumatoid arthritis can hurt both sides of the face, and the swelling and tenderness of the joint are more intense in the morning. It also causes limited movement of the jaws, pain around the ear and face, grating sensations, clicking sounds, and locking of the joint.
Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS)
AS is a chronic systemic inflammatory condition. Although rare, TMD can also be due to ankylosing spondylitis. A study said TMJ’s involvement in ankylosing spondylitis ranges from 4% to 35%.
This disorder causes swelling of the spots where tendons and ligaments connect to the bones. Ankylosing spondylitis can lead to limitation of jaw mobility and the inability to eat. Patients with this condition may also suffer from jaw pain, stiffness, headache, and limited ability to open the mouth.
Psoriatic arthritis is another autoimmune condition that attacks healthy tissues and joints. It shares some similarities with rheumatoid arthritis, but it involves skin rash. TMD due to psoriatic arthritis includes symptoms such as TMJ pain, stiffness, and tenderness. It may also cause a clicking sound when using the jaw, misalignment of the jaw, and bruxism.
The condition appears to have a connection to dental problems and gum disease. One study showed that patients with psoriatic arthritis are more prone to TMJ problems, which result in tooth damage that stems from clenching and grinding.
People who suffer from jaw pain due to psoriatic arthritis may have trouble speaking, eating, chewing, and sleeping.
TMJ Pain Relief Options for TMD Due to Arthritis
Doctors may ask patients to take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to relieve TMD due to arthritis. These pills can help reduce inflammation and pain of the TMJ.
For TMD related to rheumatoid arthritis, patients may also use disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) to avoid progressive joint damage.
Lifestyle Changes to Make to Ease Jaw Pain
Making some lifestyle changes may also help alleviate the symptoms of TMJ disorders naturally, including the following:
- Applying hot and cold compresses
- Massaging the TMJ
- Eating soft foods
- Avoiding chewing gum
- Avoiding clenching the jaw
- Not opening the mouth too wide when yawning, talking, and eating
- Not resting the chin on the hand
Exercises to Relieve TMJ Pain
If the TMJ is not too inflamed, patients may also follow a few exercises. Healthline suggested the following practices to relax the jaw joint.
- Touch the hinge of your jaw bone and massage the muscles in a downward motion.
- Place your tongue lightly at the back of your upper front teeth. Separate your teeth while relaxing the muscles of your jaw.
- Put an object (pen) between your teeth. Mildly move your jaw from the left side then to the other side.
If these relief options fail to provide aid, upper cervical chiropractic is another alternative that TMD patients may pursue.
TMJ Pain Relief Through Upper Cervical Chiropractic
Besides arthritis, TMJ dysfunction can stem from a misaligned atlas bone, which is the topmost bone of the spine. This underlying problem is often overlooked by many. The atlas sits just near enough the jaw and ears to cause issues in the TMJ.
Upper cervical chiropractic can correct an atlas misalignment. As a result, the damaged soft tissue surrounding the TMJ can recover, as well as the compressed nerves near it. Upper cervical chiropractors have been providing long-term relief for many patients suffering from TMJ disorders.
We urge you to seek the help of an upper cervical chiropractor near your place to determine if your TMD is due to an atlas misalignment. Gentle adjustments may be all you need to break free from the pain.