The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is a very unique part of the body. It is a hinge joint than can open and close the mouth, but also with the ability to slide either forward and backward or side to side. This versatility is important for chewing, speaking, and other functions. However, it can also lead to jaw pain and other symptoms. When this happens, TMJ dysfunction (TMD) has set in. We’re about to debunk 7 TMJ myths and provide you with a natural solution to the problems.
Myth #1 – Surgery Is the Best Option
Surgery should always be a last resort. Even then, you should keep looking to see if there is an option you missed. Surgery is rarely the best option for TMJ problems. However, this is necessary when a person was born with a jaw defect that should be corrected.
Myth #2 – TMJ Is a Medical Condition
TMJ stands for temporomandibular joint. It’s just an abbreviation for the joint itself since it has such a long name. Conditions that cause TMJ pain are usually lumped together as TMJ dysfunction or TMJ disorder. Either way, the abbreviation for the health condition should be TMD. Some people mistakenly say TMJ, and unfortunately, even some doctors use this term incorrectly.
Myth #3 – TMD Only Occurs Following an Accident or Injury
This is a common misconception because it is often the case. When a person is in a car accident, for example, and suffers whiplash, TMD can become an ongoing problem. We’ll discuss how the neck and jaw are related later. For now, just know that not all cases of TMD are due to injury. Bruxism (grinding of the teeth) can also lead to jaw pain due to the constant compression and release of the surrounding muscles. So stress is sometimes at the heart of jaw pain.
Myth #4 – My Jaw Stopped Making Noise, So I’m Cured
While some people have popping or clicking along with the jaw pain, this is not a symptom for all people. And the fact that popping or clicking while chewing has stopped doesn’t necessarily mean the pain will go away and never come back. It is important to discern the underlying problem in order to manage jaw pain on a long-term basis.
Myth #5 – Your Headaches and TMD Are Unrelated
Headaches are very common for TMD patients, and they are likely related, especially if the condition has followed an accident or injury. A misalignment of the upper cervical spine can affect both jaw position as well as factors that result in headaches (i.e. brainstem function, blood flow to the brain, and cerebrospinal fluid drainage). Migraines have also been linked to TMD and can be caused by the same conditions created by an upper cervical misalignment noted above.
Myth #6 – TMD Is an Uncommon Medical Condition
On the contrary, this is one of the most common medical problems. Some researchers estimate that as many as 1 in 10 people suffers with a jaw problem. That would work out to about 35 million people in the US alone if the estimate is accurate. Risk factors include being female and between the ages of 20 and 40, but anyone can experience TMD regardless of age or gender.
Myth #7 – “It’s Not Life-Threatening, So I’ll Just Live with It”
If your plan is just to tough it out rather than seeking care for TMD consider some of the things that chronic jaw problems are associated with:
- Poor Nutrition – Since TMD can make it painful to eat, some patients suffer from nutritional issues due to avoiding certain foods that are tougher to chew.
- Sleep Problems– Pain can keep a person up at night, and lack of sleep can lead to tons of other health issues.
- Weakened Immune Health – The immune system is just one part of the body that may suffer when we don’t get proper nutrition or sleep.
- Dental Health Issues – If TMD is due to bruxism, the problem needs to be corrected before teeth grinding leads to enamel erosion, cavities, or worse.
- Neck Pain – Neck pain is common for patients with TMD. It is possible, however, that the reason for this is the genesis of the TMD being in the neck rather than the other way around.
Finding Natural Relief from TMD
As has been noted several times, a common symptom of TMD is neck pain, and this may actually be related to the underlying cause of some cases of TMJ dysfunction – an upper cervical misalignment. If this is the cause of your symptoms, how can you find out and get the problem corrected?
Upper cervical chiropractic is a subspecialty in the chiropractic field that focuses solely on the C1 and C2, the top two bones in the spine. Diagnostic imaging is used to pinpoint very specific misalignments. Then a gentle adjustment is custom fit to the needs of each patient. Once administered, the body has the opportunity to start healing from damage that has been caused over time by the underlying misalignment. As a result, many patients feel some immediate relief with even more long-term benefits.
To learn if this is a viable form of care for you, an examination by an upper cervical chiropractor will be necessary. Schedule a no-obligation consultation with a practitioner in your local area to learn more. You may be a gentle and precise adjustment away from starting on the path to better overall health and well-being.