What is temporomandibular joint (TMJ) syndrome? We’re going to take a closer look at this common cause of jaw pain by examining the symptoms as well as some potential TMJ causes. Finally, we will discuss TMJ treatment to relieve common symptoms such as TMJ ear pain. You may find that there is a natural way to relieve sleep dysfunction and other common symptoms.
TMJ Causes – Why Does My Jaw Hurt?
There is no single cause that is attributed to all cases of TMJ syndrome. However, there are a number of factors that commonly precede the pain. So here are a few things that are considered TMJ causes:
- Trauma – Injuries to the head, neck, or jaw can all lead to dysfunction of the TMJ.
- Bruxism – If a person commonly grinds or clenches his or her teeth, this can lead to pressure on the TMJ and eventually pain.
- Stress – This is a common cause of clenching the jaw or bruxism.
- Arthritis – When the cartilage of the TMJ is eroded by arthritis, pain may result.
- Dental Procedures – Certain dental procedures require that a person’s mouth be propped open for an extended period of time. This can lead to problems with the joint.
- Autoimmune Conditions – Certain autoimmune conditions can lead to inflammation of the jaw.
- Surgery – If a surgery requires the insertion of a breathing tube, the TMJ may be injured during the process.
- Poor Posture – Over time, poor posture can affect the alignment of the jaw. This can lead to an uneven bite and TMJ syndrome.
How can you know if your jaw is just a little sore because of overuse or if you are actually suffering from TMJ syndrome? Here are some of the most common TMJ symptoms:
- Jaw pain – Pain in the TMJ itself is the most common symptom of TMJ syndrome.
- Jaw noise – Most TMJ syndrome patients experience an occasional or frequent popping or clicking sound coming from the jaw during use.
- Ear pain – TMJ ear pain occurs due to the close position of the jaw joint and the ears. This may lead to earaches and other vestibular symptoms.
- Face pain – Some patients who suffer from TMJ pain also experience trigeminal neuralgia. While the two conditions are not the same, the jaw joint and trigeminal nerve (TN) are near each other and may both be affected.
- Neck pain – Most people do not realize just how close the top bone in the neck is to the TMJ, ears, and TN. Pain radiating toward the neck is not uncommon with these conditions and may actually be the source of many of these problems.
- Limited range of jaw movement – The mouth may become locked in an open or closed position, or range of movement may be limited.
- Headaches – Headaches are common and may even become chronic for TMJ syndrome patients.
TMJ Treatment from Traditional to Natural
Traditional TMJ treatments span a wide range due to the many possible underlying causes of the condition. For example, several TMJ treatments are:
- Medication – This is a popular option among doctors, even though there is no pill that can cure TMJ syndrome. Prescription strength NSAIDs may be presented as a way to reduce both pain and inflammation. A muscle relaxer may be used with patients who clench the jaw frequently. Anti-anxiety medications or antidepressants may be prescribed if stress seems to be the root cause of the issue.
- Dental Treatments – If the cause of the TMJ problem is an underlying issue with the structures of the mouth, dental work may be necessary. Correcting a bite problem may fix the issue. Also, if a person is experiencing bruxism, a night guard may help the patient sleep.
- Surgery – Depending on the underlying problem, there are three types of surgeries that are used in connection with TMJ syndrome. These surgeries meet with varying degrees of success and carry the highest risks.
In order to avoid the complications of medications or surgery, many patients are interested in natural TMJ care. Many of these alternatives are a form of self-care, in other words, things you can do at home to reduce the effect of TMJ symptoms.
- Ice – Ice is a natural way to reduce swelling. Use a towel to keep ice from having direct contact with the skin.
- Diet – Eating softer foods for a time may give the TMJ the opportunity to heal naturally.
- Lifestyle – You may need to limit activities that cause you to open your mouth wide for a time. Besides a diet change, this may limit recreational activities such as singing.
- Massage/Stretching – A doctor may be able to recommend certain stretches or massage points to relieve jaw pain and inflammation.
- Stress Management – If TMJ pain is related to stress, certain stress management techniques may help. These range from taking up a relaxing hobby to using a relaxing essential oil in a diffuser.
We’d also like to introduce you to upper cervical chiropractic care. As noted earlier, the top bone of the neck (the atlas) is in proximity to the TMJ and ears. As a result, a misalignment in this location can cause the symptoms associated with TMJ syndrome. Correcting this underlying problem may thus help to relieve the pain, swelling, and other symptoms.
If you are suffering from TMJ syndrome, especially if the cause may be related to trauma or poor posture, contact an upper cervical chiropractor in your area. You may find that a gentle atlas adjustment is the natural form of care that you have been searching for.
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