Natural TMJ Treatment: A Columbia, MO Chiropractor’s Perspective
If you thought chiropractic is just for back pain, neck pain, and headaches, you might be surprised to learn that we can also help with jaw pain, known as Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction or TMJ. 12% of the population has TMJ at any time, which is quite a lot. In fact, it is one of the most common musculoskeletal disorders, second to back pain.
The jaw is a hinge-style joint. It is attached to the face by a series of strong muscles. When the jaw, cranials, and neck are properly aligned, the jaw can open, protrude, retract, and move from side to side. It does this in a smooth, flawless way that becomes almost subconscious. However, it’s not smooth or flawless for those with TMJ Disorder. This can cause pain in the jaw, trouble chewing and talking, headaches, neck pain, and inhibit your ability to think clearly. It really affects the whole person.
Correction requires realignment of the jaw and balancing the muscles, tendons, and ligaments in the jaw, the neck, the cranium, and the whole person. It’s all connected. So our treatment approach must involve the whole person too.
The most common causes of TMJ pain and dysfunction involve muscle tension from stress, which is the most common cause, internal joint disorder or dislocation due to trauma, or degenerative joint disease like arthritis from a prolonged or chronic situation.
Risk factors for developing pain in the jaw may include a recent trip to the dentist, trauma to the jaw or upper neck, and frequent snacking on crunchy foods or chewing gum. When stress is allowed to run unchecked, it can result in clenching, which can cause muscle tension leading to TMJ.
In addition to managing the pain, treatment must include reducing risk factors like stress and chronic chewing, or the problem will likely return.
Common TMJ Symptoms
The primary symptom of TMJ is jaw pain with movements like talking, chewing, laughing, etc. It is also very commonly associated with neck pain and tension-style headaches, as the muscles that connect the jaw are closely related to the spine. The nerves from the upper neck supply the jaw muscles with motor function and must work properly for the jaw to work properly.
Popping and Clicking
Jaw popping or clicking may or may not be painful, but it is annoying and happens when the disc is displaced forward. Any opening or closing of the mouth causes the click or pop as the mandible contacts that disc. When the disc displaces forward, it prevents the mandible from translating to open the mouth fully. This can be very painful and limiting, requiring a person to eat only soft or liquid foods.
Clenching is both a symptom and a risk factor for developing TMJ. It is usually the result of excess stress, anxiety, worry, or anger, though it may be related to tightness and adhesions that develop in the muscles around the jaw. Clenching can contribute to conditions like tension headaches. Adopting a yoga practice, meditation, progressive relaxation, modifying lifestyle habits to reduce stress, or wearing a mouth guard to protect your teeth and jaw, are great strategies to reduce stress and deal with clenching.
Difficulty chewing due to pain or limited range of motion is another TMJ symptom and can decrease quality of life and food enjoyment. Temporarily avoid excessive snacking, chewing gum, and biting crunchy foods while going through treatment to correct the underlying cause.
To summarize, much can be done to alleviate the symptoms of TMJ disorder, but you must address the underlying cause of joint dysfunction and muscle tension by working with a chiropractor who focuses on working with and correcting the root cause. While going through treatment, modify your diet by eating softer foods. Use a cold pack to help ease the pain. Soft tissue massage and jaw stretches will also help with TMJ pain relief.
How We Treat TMJ Dysfunction in Columbia, MO
You can expect your first visit to our office to take anywhere from 45 mins to an hour. Expect a detailed conversation with your doctor about what you are experiencing, the potential causes, and a treatment plan to not only feel better temporarily but to correct the problem as much as possible.
Your doctor may also recommend eating softer foods, avoiding snacking, using an ice pack, and doing gentle stretches to help manage your discomfort.
You may receive an X-ray to see the relationship of the upper neck to the jaw, which are very closely related and share a number of muscles. Once your doctor has made a diagnosis, you’re treatment plan will likely involve a combination of adjustments and therapies to correct your problem, including soft tissue massage, a gentle scraping technique, and realigning the jaw, the spine, and the cranial bones so that you and your TMJ can function as it should.
Content Written by Dr. Kelli Winarski | DC, Pediatrics and Pregnancy Certified, ART (Active Release Techniques) Full Body Certified, NBCE, National Board of Chiropractic Examiners Part I-IV & Physical Therapy
Content Reviewed by Dr. Collin Zeugin | DC, NBCE, National Board of Chiropractic Examiners Part I-IV & Physical Therapy
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