Living with a TMJ disorder can be an uphill battle for many sufferers. A problem with your jaw can cause symptoms that disrupt your talking or eating. In short, it can have a profound impact on the quality of life. TMJ is the abbreviation for temporomandibular joint, and your body has two – one on either side of the face. TMJ disorder is an umbrella term for acute (new or short-term) or chronic pain or dysfunction of the jaw. The most common causes of a TMJ disorder include trauma, bruxism (teeth grinding), degenerative joint diseases, and many more. Because TMJ issues can arise for so many common reasons, many people feel the impact.
The TMJ is arguably one of the more unique and complicated joints in the body. It combines features of a hinge joint (like your knee and elbow) with features of gliding or plane joints (found between bones in the wrists and ankles). This gives the jaw the broad range of motion we need in order to yawn, chew, and speak. In addition to the two bones that come together to form the joint (the mandible and the temporal bone of the skull), the TMJ contains a cartilage disc within it to keep motion fluid. When any of the components of the jaw are compromised, it can lead to pain and dysfunction.
Symptoms of a TMJ Disorder
Symptoms can vary for people who are experiencing issues with their jaw. Here are the most common symptoms that TMJD sufferers will experience:
Pain or tenderness in the jaw
The TMJ, where the mandible connects with the skull, is located just in front of the ear on either side of the head. If any of the components of the TMJ suffer irritation or inflammation, it will cause the joints to become painful and tender to the touch.
Because the TMJ and the ear are so close together, pain from the irritated jaw joint can easily cause an earache even at times when the jaw itself isn’t hurting. Vertigo, tinnitus (ringing in the ear), and improper fluid drainage can also be connected.
Headache or migraine
Headaches or migraines are one of the more common symptoms that TMJD sufferers experience. TMJ associated headaches can arise for several reasons, including neck tension and irritation of the nerves that control the jaw and sensation to parts of the head and face.
Difficulty chewing, talking or yawning
When the jaw isn’t working properly, it won’t open and close the way it should. The jaw might lock or get stuck in either the open or closed position. These restrictions of the TMJ’s normal range of motion can be an indication that something is not mechanically moving correctly.
Aching facial pain
The trigeminal nerve (the 5th cranial nerve) has three branches that cover the forehead, cheek, and jawline on either side of your face. Poor jaw position can cause this nerve to become irritated and lead to radiating facial pain.
Clicking, popping, and grinding sounds
While a noisy jaw isn’t necessarily a sign of a problem in and of itself, if these sounds are present along with other TMJD symptoms it can be a sign of an imbalance.
When jaw muscles function inefficiently and your jaw doesn’t open and close evenly, it can create tension and pain in the neck and shoulders. The muscles in the neck are responsible for holding the head and neck upright. If the neck muscles are experiencing chronic stress and pain, the muscles of the jaw might be working overtime to try and compensate.
Sensitive and sore teeth
If the jaw joints are inflamed, damaged, arthritic, or out of proper alignment, you might find that your teeth are grinding together. Bruxism, or the chronic grinding of your teeth, can cause toothaches, sensitive gums, and eventually wear the enamel surface from your teeth.
Relief from TMJ Symptoms with Upper Cervical Chiropractic Care
At first, it might not seem apparent how the upper neck and the jaw can be related to one another. However, when you understand how close the uppermost vertebra in your spine, the atlas (C1) and your TMJ on either side of the head are, it’s not difficult at all to understand how one has an impact on the other.
- As the muscles and other soft tissues move to compensate for a head that is off-center due to an atlas misalignment, the jaw can also misalign as a result.
- The nerves that branch off the brainstem, which the atlas should protect as it exits from the base of the skull, are the nerves that provide function to the muscles that control the actions of the jaw. Interruption of normal signals that communicate between the brain and the jaw via these nerves can result in improper function as well as pain and discomfort.
Upper cervical chiropractic care focuses on identifying and correcting this specific misalignment of the atlas vertebra. Once this correction is successful and the body begins to heal, it is possible to experience relief from TMJ dysfunction. In addition, you can be free from associated pain, headaches and many other symptoms.
If you suffer from chronic TMJ issues but failed to get relief from traditional remedies, try upper cervical chiropractic care. To learn more about this natural and effective method of TMJD care, locate an upper cervical practitioner in your area. Schedule a consultation today.