TMJ (temporomandibular joint) disorders affect over 10 million people across the United States, according to some estimates. TMJ disorders, or TMJD, can be severely painful and cause many problems for those suffering with it. The jaw is a very complex joint, and most people can find no obvious reason or cause for their symptoms.
Facts About the Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ)
Your temporomandibular joint is the joint connected the lower part of your jaw (your mandible) and the temporal bone of your skull. There are actually TMJ's on each side of the head located just in front of your ears. These joints are some of the most complicated joints in the body. The reason the TMJ is so complex is because the jaw can move in many directions from hinging open and close, to gliding from side to side. All of these movements make it possible for us to talk, chew, and yawn. There is also a disc within the TMJ joint, similar to how your spine has discs. This discs act as shock-absorbers, sustaining some of the force experienced during chewing and other movements.
TMJ Disorder can have several causes, and the experience of each of these problems may be different depending on the person. Here are a few indicators that you may have a disorder of the TMJ:
- Jaw stiffness
- Locking of the jaw
- Upper and lower teeth that do not fit together correctly
- Grinding of the teeth
Jaw problems are usually associated to some other issue. Problems and dysfunction of the TMJ manifest in many other ways. In fact, these symptoms may be happening but are more frequently associated with TMJD:
- Facial pain
- Neck pain and stiffness
Self-Care for TMJ
There are a number of home remedies and habits you can try to help your TMJ issues resolve without the help of a professional. Exercising these listed habits may help you to get some relief from jaw pain and discomfort:
- Icing the jaw – ice is excellent in any case at helping reduce inflammation, and when applied to the temporomandibular joint, it could help ease the pain you're having.
- Eating soft foods – tough, chewy foods such as steak, bagels, chewing gum or sticky sweets can all cause increased irritation to the jaw. Eating softer foods that are gentler on the jaw can help you avoid further pain in the jaw.
- Stress relief – high or constant doses of stress can cause you to unconsciously clench or grind your jaw. This type of pressure against the joints contributes to pain and dysfunction of the TMJ. It is important to implement lifestyle changes that include stress-relieving techniques such as meditation, yoga, and gentle exercise such as walking. All of these can help release stress, thus relieving tension in your jaw.
- Using proper range of motion for the health of your jaw – it is important to be aware of the way your jaw moves while chewing your food, talking, or yawning. Be careful not to open your jaw excessively wide or do too much repetitive movement while doing things like chewing gum.
These are a few conservative options that will hopefully reduce the discomfort in your jaw. Very often, people with TMJ are prescribed or recommended different anti-inflammatory medications or pain killers. Dentist and physicians will sometimes offer a bite guard in order to stabilize the jaw and prevent teeth grinding while you sleep.
Upper Cervical Chiropractic Care Brings Relief to TMJ Patients
The possibility that neck pain and TMJD are related is not a far leap, especially since the two symptoms often occur hand in hand. Surrounding your TMJ are some very important structures: your atlas (C1 vertebra) and your brainstem. The atlas is the uppermost vertebra in your spine, and it literally cradles the skull, allowing your head the wide range of movement you enjoy on a daily basis. In fact, the atlas is the most freely moving vertebra in your spinal column. It is also responsible for protecting your brainstem, from which cranial nerves branch off. Injury or wear and tear could cause a misalignment in the atlas, resulting in irritation of the cranial nerves. These nerves control the face and jaw muscles and also carry pain signals to the brain. An upper cervical subluxation can affect the jaw, neck, and face muscles, causing tightening that leads to jaw dysfunction.
Upper cervical chiropractic is a niche of chiropractic care that focuses on issues surrounding the atlas. We use diagnostic imaging that gives us accurate information on exactly where the misalignment has occurred. With this knowledge, we are able to provide a personalized adjustment for each of our patients. Upper cervical chiropractic adjustments are both extremely precise and very gentle while they are also designed to hold in place for as long as possible. The longer the corrected alignment stays in place, the more thoroughly the body can heal and restore itself. Many of our patients experience rapid results and restored jaw function after receiving our care.
If you’ve tried other TMJ self-care options and interventions but have not seen the result you would like, the problem may be from an upper cervical misalignment that is keeping you from healing completely. Come in for a complimentary, no-obligation consultation so you can learn more about upper cervical care and decide for yourself it is the missing piece to your recovery from TMJD.