Are you dealing with TMJ pain? TMJ stands for temporomandibular joint. It is the jaw joint that allows a person to open and close the lower mandible for chewing, speaking, and other activities. However, more than just being a hinge joint, the TMJ is also a slide joint that allows you to shift your lower mandible from side to side.
This makes the jaw joint one of the more unique it in the body. However, it also may lead to issues that cause pain. How can you cope with a TMJ disorder? Here are 5 questions that everyone suffering from TMJ pain should ask themselves.
#1 Do I Need to See a Doctor?
The fact is that the cause behind jaw pain is rarely life-threatening. However, sometimes things as serious as oral cancer or a cardiovascular problem are disguised early on as jaw pain or a toothache. If you have other risk factors, such as a family history of these other conditions, you may want to get checked out by a doctor. Hopefully, your dentist does an oral cancer screening during your bi-annual visits, and your doctor should catch signs of cardiovascular disease at your annual checkup.
#2 Will the Pain Go Away on Its Own?
There isn’t really a straight answer to this question. It usually depends on the underlying issue. If you have just overused your jaw, resting it by eating softer foods for a while and avoiding activities that require opening your jaw all the way could be all you need to solve the problem. If you are dealing with misalignments or damage from a traumatic injury, you are less likely to see the pain go away until the underlying issue is corrected. The longer TMJ has persisted, the more likely you are to need medical intervention.
#3 Should I Use Ice or Heat?
Ice and heat are usually used to treat injuries. Ice is a natural anti-inflammatory, so rather than just making the area get so cold that it hurts less, ice actually reduces pain by reducing inflammation. On the other hand, heat is good for healing. The problem is that heat heals by encouraging more blood to come to the area, so if you are still dealing with inflammation following an injury, it may initially make matters worse.
In short, ice is good for injuries while inflammation is going down; heat is good after the inflammation is gone and you want to promote healing.
#4 Have I Suffered an Injury that Could Be Causing the Pain?
If you haven’t taken a shot to the chin, you may not be thinking that your jaw pain is from an injury. However, it is interesting to note that most cases of TMJ pain also present with trigeminal neuralgia (face pain due to compression of the facial nerve), neck pain, and earaches. This makes sense because the atlas (C1 vertebra) is located at the base of the skull. It is basically between the two hinges of the jaw joint, the two ears, and the roots of the trigeminal nerve. That means a misaligned atlas can affect all of these other structures.
How do misalignments of the atlas occur? While there are too many to mention them all here, a few things that can cause a misalignment include:
- Whiplash injuries or other neck trauma
- Concussions or other head trauma
- Car accidents
- Slip and fall accidents
- Sports injuries
- Wear and tear due to overuse or poor posture
The injury may not even have occurred this month or this year. Sometimes these injuries work for years under the surface, causing the circumstances that lead to jaw pain. What can be done? We would like to introduce you to upper cervical chiropractic care as a potential natural solution for TMJ disorders.
#5 Can Upper Cervical Chiropractic Help Me?
Since the neck is so closely related to the function of the jaw and the surrounding soft tissue, it just makes sense to have the upper neck examined for injuries when TMJ pain persists. How does upper cervical chiropractic work?
First, the initial consultation will help you to see if you are a good candidate for this form of care. If you have suffered any of the injuries or other types of trauma noted above or if you also have occasional neck pain, these are good indicators that upper cervical chiropractic care will help.
Next, the initial visit takes place. This involves an extensive patient history, a physical examination, and modern diagnostic imaging such as x-rays. The diagnostic imaging helps the doctor to see the exact location and degree of the upper cervical misalignment. This, in turn, allows the practitioner to create a custom adjustment to fit your needs.
Finally, you are ready for the precise and gentle adjustment. Since corrections are low-force (no popping or jerking of the spine), the adjustments tend to last longer, giving your body the time it needs to heal. For some patients with TMJ pain, this leads to an eventual reduction in the frequency and severity of the pain.
If you are suffering from TMJ dysfunction, contact an upper cervical chiropractor in your area. You may find that this safe and natural form of care is just what you need in order to get the full range of motion back in your jaw and to relieve the ongoing pain. To learn more, schedule a consultation today.