Problems with the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) are one of the most common health ailments that people suffer from in America. If you are coping with TMJ pain, here are some of the most important things for you to know. We will conclude our list by helping you to find some natural relief.
#1 Don’t Call It TMJ
For years, you have probably heard people refer to TMJ problems simply as TMJ. The problem is that abbreviation is just the name for the joint. So if there is something wrong with your TMJ or it hurts, you need to use phrases like TMJ dysfunction or disorder (TMD) or TMJ pain (or even just jaw pain). This expresses that you are having a problem with your jaw as opposed to declaring that you have one.
#2 TMJ Pain Is Not the Only Symptom of TMD
What are some of the other symptoms of a TMJ disorder? Besides pain in the jaw, you may also experience neck pain, earaches, and facial pain. It can be challenging to open and close the jaw as you may lose some range of motion. You may also notice that your bite alignment is off. There are several sleep disorders that are associated with TMJ problems, including OSA (obstructive sleep apnea) and bruxism (grinding of the teeth).
#3 The Underlying Cause of TMJ Pain Varies from Person to Person
TMJ problems often begin following a head or neck injury. However, there can be other factors involved. For example, stress and bad habits can be a factor in the onset of jaw pain. Another possibility is an upper cervical misalignment that is throwing off the alignment of the jaw and other structures in the neck and face.
#4 Sometimes the Jaw Just Gets Tired
If you have never had jaw problems before, it may just need a little rest. Try eating softer foods for a few days and avoid activities that require you to open your mouth all the way (such as eating a large sandwich or singing). Resting your jaw to see if it gets better on its own could help you to avoid a visit to the doctor.
#5 TMJ Pain Is Often Related to Inflammation
One of the most common questions people ask about jaw pain is, should I use ice or heat? The answer is simple once you know that most cases of jaw pain are related to inflammation. Ice is the natural enemy of swelling. Heat may feel good while it is in place, but it can increase inflammation by sending more blood to the area.
Remember that when you use ice, it should never come into direct contact with the skin. Wrap your ice pack in a dishtowel and only apply ice in periods of 20 minutes or less at a time.
#6 A Noisy Jaw Could Indicate a TMJ Problem, But Not Always
You may hear a popping, clicking, or grinding sound when opening and closing your jaw. Along with the other symptoms of TMD, this could be yet another indicator. However, sometimes the jaw makes noise even when nothing is wrong. Also, don’t assume your problem is better just because your jaw stops making noise.
#7 Some Medication May Help TMJ Pain
Even though you want to find natural relief for your TMJ pain, while you are searching for the correct approach, an NSAID may be of service to you. Again, most jaw pain is due to swelling. Since NSAIDs are specifically designed to reduce inflammation, you may get some pain relief. That said, be sure not to overuse these medications as they can have side effects with frequent or long-term use.
#8 There Is Treatment for Bruxism
In reality, bruxism is often manageable with stress relief techniques that keep your body from resorting to this habit during sleep. In the meantime, your dentist can produce a custom-fit mouthguard to keep you from grinding your teeth. This will reduce damage to the teeth, although it is unlikely to get rid of the underlying cause of your jaw pain.
#9 The Source of Your Jaw Pain May Be Your Neck
Remember that head and neck injuries are often the genesis of TMJ problems and that misalignments in the upper cervical spine can throw off the alignment of the jaw and soft tissue in the neck and face. These can be factors in all of the symptoms of TMD. Therefore, it makes sense to have the upper cervical spine checked if you are suffering from TMJ pain on a long-term basis.
#10 You Can Find Natural Relief from TMJ Pain
An upper cervical specific chiropractor may be able to help you find some much sought after natural relief. This specific form of chiropractic focuses on the top two bones in the neck, which are in a position to have the most significant impact on the neck, jaw, and even the ears. If you have tried self-care at home and problems with your jaw are persisting, here is what you can expect from an upper cervical chiropractor.
It all starts with precise diagnostic imaging of the C1 and C2 vertebrae to pinpoint the misalignment down to fractions of a millimeter. Then you receive customized and gentle adjustments to your neck that are long-lasting and provided on an as-needed basis. This gives your soft tissue time to heal and may allow the jaw to return to its natural position. To learn more, contact an upper cervical chiropractor in your area today.