How TMJ Problems Are Related to Sleep Apnea, Sleep Disorders

TMJ disorders are common with more than 44 million patients suffering from jaw pain in the US alone. However, what you may not know is that sleep disorders are nearly as common (40 million Americans have some form of sleep disorder), and many people suffer from both problems simultaneously.

Why do these conditions commonly occur together? Is there some sort of link between the cause of TMJ dysfunction and conditions like OSA? We are going to address the relationship between these problems and how a natural therapy may be able to help you overcome both.

The Relationship Between TMJ Pain and OSA

When the TMJ is hurting, the alignment may be off. Such misalignments can also lead to OSA. Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when a person’s airway gets blocking during sleep. As a result, you wake up to get the body breathing again. It may happen over and over throughout the night, but never enough for you to remember actually waking up. Therefore, you just get up in the morning without feeling refreshed. It is usually a person’s partner who hears the obstructions occurring at night, and this can lead to a diagnosis and treatment. Having OSA long-term becomes dangerous and increases the risk of certain heart conditions.

Bruxism and TMJ Pain

This is a case where jaw pain can actually be caused by the sleep problem. Bruxism refers to the grinding of one’s teeth, which often occurs when a person is sleeping. Most cases of bruxism go back to stress and can eventually be controlled. In the meantime, you may need a mouthguard to stop you from being able to grind your teeth at night. This, in turn, may also help relieve jaw pain, assuming the apparatus fits properly. Otherwise, the mouthguard may actually make jaw pain worse.

TMJ Pain and Migraines or Chronic Headaches

Headaches or migraines also frequently accompany jaw pain, and when these conditions are combined, it can make it particularly difficult to get a good night of sleep. If you suffer from TMJ dysfunction, you may have also noticed that pain frequently radiates toward the ears or the neck. You may also notice that you have a forward head position. If this is the case, it is likely that your head and jaw pain are related to the neck.

Quick Tips for TMJ Self-Care at Home

If you find that you are suffering from any combination of these conditions, there may be a few changes you can make at home to reduce your TMJ pain and other symptoms. These include:

  • Ice – Pain is often due to inflammation and ice helps to reduce swelling and pain. Heat, on the other hand, draws more blood to the area and can actually increase inflammation. It is, however, important for healing. So once the swelling goes down, heat may help.
  • Limit jaw movement – Less severe cases of TMJ dysfunction can be relieved by giving the jaw time to rest. Try changing your diet to feature softer foods for a few days so your jaw does not have to work as hard. You can also avoid activities that require opening the jaw widely such as singing.
  • Correct your posture – A forward head position can affect the neck, jaw, headaches, and sleep. Even just having your head an inch forward from its natural position increases the stress on the neck exponentially, so using proper posture is vital. If you work at a desk, make sure all of your screens are at eye level, as screens that are too low will contribute to a forward head position.
  • Stress coping – From neck pain to headaches to bruxism, stress is related to TMJ problems and many of the other conditions mentioned in our discussion today. As a result, it is important to learn to control stress in your life if you are dealing with chronic TMJ pain. One note of caution is that things like smoking (a common way people cope with stress) are actually bad for your neck and jaw. So it is vital to find positive stress coping mechanisms like a new hobby, a hot bath, a massage, or a vacation.

Natural Help for TMJ Pain from Upper Cervical Chiropractic Care

If you are suffering from TMJ issues long-term and self-care is only helping take the edge off, then it may be time to give upper cervical chiropractic care a try. It might be able to help you avoid things like long-term anti-inflammatory use. How does adjusting the top bone in the neck help the jaw and affect things like headaches?

The atlas is located at the top of the spine which puts it nearby the jaw joint, ears, and facial nerve. As a result, the changes that take place in the surrounding structures when an atlas subluxation exists can cause everything from jaw pain to headaches. Without correcting this underlying issue, it can be difficult to get long-term relief from any of the conditions that it is resulting in.  

Our website can help you to locate one of our preferred upper cervical practitioners in your area. Just use the search feature to find a doctor near you and schedule a consultation today. This can set you on the path to better overall well-being and may help you to finally break away from jaw pain, and the complications that surround it, for good.

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The content and materials provided in this web site are for informational and educational purposes only and are not intended to supplement or comprise a medical diagnosis or other professional opinion, or to be used in lieu of a consultation with a physician or competent health care professional for medical diagnosis and/or treatment. All content and materials including research papers, case studies and testimonials summarizing patients' responses to care are intended for educational purposes only and do not imply a guarantee of benefit. Individual results may vary, depending upon several factors including age of the patient, severity of the condition, severity of the spinal injury, and duration of time the condition has been present.