TMJ stands for the temporomandibular joint. It is the joint that attaches your jawbone to your skull. It functions as a dual-action joint, opening and closing like a hinge while also sliding from side to side. This makes the jaw very versatile but also leaves it open to problems. TMJ disorders occur when anything affects the regular opening and closing of the jaw.
Sometimes, it can be as simple as an overtired or overused jaw. At other times, TMJ pain can become chronic, and finding the underlying cause may seem beyond reach. What can you do if you are in this frustrating situation? Here are a few things that you need to know about TMJ disorders.
Symptoms of TMJ Disorders
Depending on the underlying cause and severity of your TMJ disorder, you can experience a number of different symptoms. Here are some of the more common issues that are associated with TMD.
- Jaw pain – This is the most recognizable symptom of TMD and the one that usually causes a person to seek assistance.
- Radiating pain – TMJ problems rarely tend to cause pain in the jaw alone. The pain will usually also radiate toward the neck and ears. This explains some of the complications of TMD as well as pointing toward a potential underlying cause.
- Facial pain – The TMJ is in proximity to the trigeminal nerve. As a result, you may also experience facial pain. Since the facial nerve branches above the eye, below the eye, and along the jaw, there is a broad location for the pain to occur.
- Limited range of motion – This may occur due to the pain, or the jaw may actually lock in place.
What Causes TMJ Disorders?
TMD has a few primary causes. If you are experiencing jaw pain that is beyond just overuse, then it probably relates to one of these three factors.
- Trauma – If you suffer a blow to the jaw, head, or neck, it may result in a misalignment of the jaw. This can be at the source of your problem.
- Arthritis – Degeneration of the cartilage of the TMJ can lead to chronic pain.
- Misalignment – Anything that throws off the alignment of the jaw can be a factor in TMJ dysfunction.
There are some additional factors that may play a role in TMJ problems such as stress and grinding of the teeth, which may occur at night as a result of the aforementioned stress.
Risk Factors for TMJ Disorders
You may be more likely to suffer from TMD if you have some of the following risk factors.
- Injuries – Head, neck, or jaw injuries can lead to TMJ problems. Keep in mind that TMD may take weeks or even months to develop following the injury.
- Stress – Long-term clenching of the jaw can eventually wear down the joint or stress the surrounding muscles.
- Arthritis – Certain arthritic conditions like osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis may make it more likely for arthritis to develop in the jaw as well.
Home Remedies for Jaw Pain
If you think the condition is temporary, due to stress, or simply due to overuse of the jaw, then you may be able to control the pain at home. Here are a few tips.
- Use ice – Jaw pain is often due to inflammation. That means ice is the way to go. Heat may feel good while it is on, but it can increase blood flow to the area and lead to more inflammation. Remember not to allow direct skin contact with your ice pack, and never use ice for more than 20 minutes at a time.
- Massage – Massaging the area around the jaw joint may help tight muscles to relax. This is especially important if stress is an underlying factor. Make sure to massage your neck as well. While these muscles don’t directly connect to your jaw, strains and tension can pull the jawbone out of proper alignment and contribute to TMJ pain.
- Use proper posture – This is especially important if you spend a lot of time in a car or sitting at a desk for work. Inclining the head at an angle of just 15 degrees can add a lot of additional strain to the neck, and this can lead to jaw pain. Be careful with smartphone use as well because people tend to lean forward at a 60-degree angle to look down at text messages and other alerts. This puts even more strain on the neck and jaw.
Natural Help for TMJ Disorders
Another way to get natural relief for jaw pain is to see an upper cervical chiropractor. It is a specific form of chiropractic that involves precise and gentle adjustments of only the top two bones in the neck. Such corrections can be beneficial for the surrounding structures like the jaw, ears, and facial nerves because the surrounding soft tissue shifts to balance the head when even the slightest misalignment occurs in this part of the body.
If you are suffering from TMJ pain, especially if you have a history of head or neck trauma, it makes sense to see an upper cervical chiropractor. An examination will reveal if a misalignment exists and correcting this underlying issue may provide you with the long-term relief that you have been searching for. Schedule a no-obligation consultation with a practitioner in your area today to find out if this is the best natural alternative for your jaw pain.