Did you know that more patients have got in touch with doctors, upper cervical chiropractors, and other healthcare professionals for TMJ and ear pain during the pandemic? But how are these two things related? How can the pandemic cause pain and discomfort to non-infected individuals? More importantly, what remedies can people use, and how helpful are these options in providing lasting relief? Let’s investigate in our discussion below.
What Does TMJ Feel Like?
TMJ or temporomandibular joint disorders affect about 10 million Americans. As the name suggests, it affects the TMJ or the joints attaching your jawbone to the skull. People diagnosed with TMJ pain report various symptoms that tend to appear from time to time. Some examples of TMJ disorder symptoms include:
- Tenderness of the jaw
- Clicking or popping jaw
- Painful cheek muscles
- Pain in the temporomandibular joint
- Hissing or buzzing sound in the ears
- Mild to severe ear congestion
- Dizziness or vertigo attacks
- Limited ability to move the mouth
- Tightness of the jaw muscles
- Recurring headaches
- Difficulty biting food or opening the mouth
- Trouble swallowing food or drinks
- Pain behind the eyes
- Pain or stiffness of the neck
- Aching shoulder and back muscles
- Teeth clenching during bedtime
TMJ Disorders and the Global Health Crisis
Not enjoying simple things like eating, talking, smiling, or making funny faces is the norm for anyone diagnosed with TMJ disorders. Unfortunately, many dentists and doctors note that the TMJ symptoms reported by patients have gotten worsen during the last few months. So, what’s the reason behind such a trend?
The American Dental Association explains that it might be due to increased incidence of bruxism or teeth grinding. Psychological studies point out that the uncertainty caused by the pandemic has driven thousands of people to experience significant emotional distress.
Unfortunately, stress, anxiety, and other mental health problems often lead to jaw clenching and teeth grinding, two factors that can aggravate TMJ and ear pain. To further illustrate the impact of the pandemic on people with TMJ symptoms, here are some quick statistics from different studies:
- Bruxism increased to 25 percent from 10 percent during the first few months of the pandemic
- In the USA, 60 percent of surveyed dentists report increasing stress-related dental issues like cracked teeth, jaw pain, and TMJ symptoms.
- Teeth grinding also affects young kids who feel equally stressed out about the COVID-19 situation.
- An orthodontist explains that chewing and eating create a force equal to around 20 to 40 pounds. Teeth grinding at nighttime, on the other hand, yields up to 100 pounds of mechanical pressure on the jaw, teeth, and the rest of the mouth.
How to Cope from TMJ During Stressful Times
Undeniably, the pandemic is far from over. If you’re among the millions who feel stressed out because of the COVID-19 virus, here are some ways you can cope:
- Take a break from watching COVID-19 updates or other news at least a few times each day
- Learn yoga breathing or meditation exercises to clear the mind and relax your body
- Opt to eat healthy meals every day and minimize alcohol consumption
- Try doing activities that bring you joy like cooking, crocheting, or reading books
- Talk to your loved ones or consult with mental health professionals about how you feel
Additionally, here are some remedies you can try to manage your TMJ and ear pain better:
- Manage the inflammation with anti-inflammatory drugs and NSAIDs
- Prevent or minimize the effects of bruxism by using dental protection devices
- Switch to a soft diet without compromising the nutrition you get each day
- Stay physically active even when you can’t go to fitness centers or gyms
- Avoid biting your nails and other bad habits involving your mouth like thumb sucking
- Avoid chewing gum or other similar hard-to-chew food products
- Use a cold compress to soothe the tenderness around the TMJ and a hot compress to speed up the healing of affected tissues
Relieving TMJ and Ear Pain With Upper Cervical Chiropractic Care
Studies continue to unravel the root cause of TMJ and ear pain. Many of these studies note that TMJ pain might have something to do with a misalignment along the cervical spine or upper neck. According to some of the findings, cervical subluxation can affect how your upper and lower jawbones align. This puts stress on the temporomandibular joint, triggering the symptoms we listed above.
Additionally, the shifting of your uppermost neck bones can impact central nervous function. The bones can pinch nerve roots and the brainstem, disrupting the natural flow of information to and from the brain. It can also heighten your body’s pain sensitivity, causing worse bouts of TMJ and ear pain.
If you think your TMJ pain stems from a cervical subluxation, you can confirm it by seeing an upper cervical doctor. After you get diagnosed, you can start receiving gentle chiropractic adjustments that can gradually restore the neutral alignment of your upper neck bones. Then, with the underlying cause resolved, you can potentially eliminate your TMJ symptoms.
Case studies from all over the country attest to the promising potential of upper cervical care in providing lasting TMJ pain relief. So if you want to see if it’s an option that can help you live free from pain or discomfort due to an irritated or swollen TMJ, you can call a neck chiropractor near you.