Temporomandibular disorders are irritating at best and debilitating at worst. Jaw clicking and popping. Headaches. Earaches or tinnitus. Inflammation or jaw locking. Does any of this sound painfully familiar? Temporomandibular Disorders (TMD), frequently miscalled TMJ (temporomandibular joint), are a common cause of facial discomfort. The pain commonly associated with it can affect one or both sides of your face. It stems from problems with the jaw itself or facial muscles and nerves. More women than men are affected by TMD. These disorders mostly occur in patients between the ages of 20 and 40.
What is the temporomandibular joint?
The temporomandibular joint acts as a hinge connecting your jaw to the temporal bones in front of your ears. As with other joints, cartilage and discs act as a buffer between the bones. This “hinge” allows for the up and down and side to side movements necessary for talking, yawning, smiling, eating, laughing, and more. You typically use this joint over 5,000 times a day. In other words, it does a lot of work! You can probably guess that problems with the muscles, tissues, bones, or nerves in this area can have a major impact on your well-being and quality of life.
Below are some of the more common symptoms of temporomandibular disorders:
- Pain in your face, jaw, ear area, or even neck when chewing
- Jaw clicking or popping (may not be painful)
- Jaw getting “stuck” open or closed
- Facial swelling or feeling like your face is “tired”
- Inflammation of nerves
- Feeling like your bite isn’t aligned properly
- Problems with the Eustachian tubes (a tube between your throat and ear)
- Other possible symptoms also include tinnitus, earaches, and dizziness.
- Or even vision blurriness and tooth pain
Causes of jaw problems
Temporomandibular disorders have a number of typical causes. Specific causation for an individual might be difficult to determine since they don’t always lead to a TMD. Sometimes it’s a combination of several factors that cause a person to develop a disorder in these joints. Here are a few key contributing factors:
- Disk or cartilage erosion or damage
- Misalignment of the joint
- Injury from an impact to the jaw area or whiplash
- Certain types of arthritis (osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, etc.)
- Some diseases that affect connective tissues
- Nail-biting or excessive gum chewing
- A misalignment of neck vertebra causing problems with the muscles that control the TMJ
- Sometimes, jaw clenching and teeth grinding (especially long-term)
Chiropractic care for jaw pain
Fortunately, in many cases, TMD discomfort or pain does not have to be permanent. Taking into account your specific conditions and needs, chiropractic care can help relieve the painful symptoms. At the same time, it can address the root cause of your disorder. Chiropractic care specializes in skeletal and joint care. It’s ideal for treating TMD. Treatments can include gentle manipulation of the temporomandibular joint and any other areas that may be contributing to the problem. Massaging of the jaw, neck, and shoulder muscles can also help relax the strain on the problem joints.
Cold laser therapy is a safe and extremely effective, non-invasive intervention using a non-thermal laser. Cold laser therapy can penetrate deep into the tissue and even the joint itself, decreasing inflammation, stimulating healing, and providing almost immediate relief. This treatment can be very beneficial for those suffering from painful TMJ disorders.
Jaw surgery alternatives
While surgery is sometimes considered, it’s important to remember that once it’s done it can’t be reversed. Be sure to get a second or even third opinion, and consider it a last resort. Chiropractic coupled with a bit of self-care can help almost everyone avoid the surgery option. If you already have noticeable symptoms of TMD, there are a few things you can do alongside your chiropractic treatment plan. These can reduce or even eliminate the symptoms and most underlying causes.
- Avoid hard to chew foods.
- Avoid nail biting and chewing gum.
- Ice your jaw when tissue is inflamed.
- Reduce stress.
- Rest your brain and body.
- Practice relaxation techniques.
- Be mindful of your jaw movements, and avoid extreme movements.
- Wear a bite guard when sleeping.
- And yes, work to improve your posture.
Above all, if you believe you are suffering from a temporomandibular joint disorder, seeking good, personalized care. This is important. So we are here to help you do just that. For a customized treatment plan that takes into account your unique needs, contact Synergy Wellness today to schedule your appointment with Dr. Dave.