More often than not, people refer to “TMJ” as a jaw problem or jaw pain. TMJ is, in fact, short for the temporomandibular joint – the joints that connect the temporal bone of the skull with the lower jaw (the mandible). The joints sit just in front of each ear. When you have a TMJ problem, your ability to eat, talk, and yawn may become limited. It’s no wonder people seek the help of a TMJ treatment doctor.
What Makes the TMJ a Complex and Unique Joint?
- The TMJ can do two different movements – hinging (to open and close the mouth) and gliding (to move left and right).
- There are two TMJs – one on each side of the ear, but the jaw works as a single structure. It’s impossible only to use one side of your jaw. The two sides are designed to work together.
- The TMJ consists of an articular disc to maintain its smooth movement. This soft disc acts as a cushion between the temporal bone and the condyle of the mandible.
Pain and the inability to move your jaw properly are some indicators of TMJ dysfunction, also called TMJD. The reasons for TMJD are different for every person and can stem from muscle imbalance and trauma, including a blow to the head due to a sports collision or car accident. It can occur even for no apparent reason.
4 Warning Signs That You Have a TMJ Disorder
People with TMJD have restricted jaw movement. You are unable to open or shut your mouth entirely, or your jaw moves to one side when opening or closing. This makes chewing food, yawning, or even talking arduous tasks. There are severe cases where the jaw locks completely as the articular disc becomes displaced and unable to hinge back into its normal position.
The joint itself can be the source of the TMJ pain. Arthritis or degenerative changes can cause pain in the jaw joints. TMJD can also originate from the jaw muscles that control its movement. When these muscles become painful, it is often due to clenching or grinding of the teeth.
Hearing noises coming from your TMJ does not automatically indicate a serious problem. It is quite normal to experience occasional clicking of the jaw. What’s important to consider is whether the clicking is pain-free. When the jaw starts making noises that come along with discomfort or pain, that’s when TMJD may be the culprit. Your TMJ may produce popping, clicking, or grating sounds. Clicking often occurs when the jaw opens or closes, usually due to a brief displacement of the articular disc. Grinding happens when the jaw moves sideways.
Many people with TMJ dysfunction experience some referred pain. It can present as a headache, neck pain, earache, or toothache. The jaw is near the ear and the upper cervical spine where it forms a junction with the skull. Those who suffer from TMJD may also experience facial pain or pain over the temples.
TMJ Dysfunction May Originate from the Neck
Some people are lucky as their jaw pain disappears on its own after a short period by simple methods like avoiding hard-to-chew foods and applying an ice pack on the jaw. But what about those with severe and persistent TMJD cases? What’s the best option they can take? We often recommend patients get to the underlying cause of the issue.
A common but often overlooked cause of TMJD is a misalignment of the topmost vertebrae in the neck. The position of your atlas vertebra can have an impact on the resting position of your jaw and the muscles that control jaw movements. This explains why some of the main symptoms of TMJD include neck pain, facial pain, and headaches in addition to jaw discomfort.
Upper Cervical Chiropractic — A Unique Treatment for TMJ
Upper cervical chiropractic care pays particular attention to the alignment of the neck and head and how it affects the body’s ability to operate normally. Because the atlas sits very near to the TMJ, the ear, and other critical nerves and blood vessels, its misalignment can lead to major problems.
When the atlas misaligns, precise adjustments are necessary to obtain the best possible results. Upper cervical chiropractic employs personalized adjustments for each patient. The technique is very detailed, gentle, and accurate. They use scientific measurements and imaging before they make adjustments. Once the spine goes back to its normal alignment, body balance will return, and normal function can resume naturally.
Contact a TMJ treatment doctor to resolve your jaw problem and feel better again. Browse through our list of chiropractic doctors and get the help you need to achieve your health and wellness goals.