Jaw pain might seem minimal and easily treatable, but it can cause big problems. A whopping 10 million people in the United States suffer from a TMJ disorder. TMJ refers to the temporomandibular joint of the jaw. A TMJ disorder, also referred to as TMJD or TMD, is the pain and problems related to the jaw joint. TMJ disorders can bring about excruciating pain, so much so that sometimes speaking, chewing, and yawning without discomfort is impossible. Jaw problems can also affect your quality of sleep and may result in sleep disturbances like clenching or grinding of the teeth and sleep apnea.
When you get a TMJ disorder diagnosis, your course of treatment will depend on the cause of your TMJ pain. But the usual pieces of advice you might be given are “just wait, and it will get better on its own” or “stop chewing gum” or “don’t clench your teeth.” There is no standard suggestion when it comes to the right treatment options.
Possible Sources of TMJ Pain
TMJ is one of the most used and complex joints in the body. It attaches the mandible (the lower jaw), and the temporal bone of the skull. What makes it unique? It is a hinge and gliding joint, meaning it can move in different ranges of motion. It can hinge open and close, move from left to right, and glide backward and forward.
TMJ disorders are categorized into three types:
- Problems with the muscles responsible for jaw movement
- Arthritis in the TMJ which can be due to inflammation or degeneration
- Issues with the jaw joint itself, which can include pain caused by a dislocated jaw, damaged or displaced articular disc, or injury to the condyle, the part of the mandible that inserts into the temporal bone of the skull
Anyone can experience one or more of these conditions at once, making TMJ disorders even more challenging to deal with.
Symptoms of TMJ Disorders
People experience TMJ disorders differently. Symptoms vary from person to person and based on where the problem stems from. If the jaw itself is involved, the TMJD symptoms may be more noticeable:
- Limited movement or locking of the jaw
- Upper and lower teeth that don’t fit together
- Presence of clicking, grating, or popping sounds when opening or closing the mouth
- Bruxism, or grinding of the teeth
- Pain in the muscles that control jaw movement (within the jaw itself, near the temples, and around the ears)
Other symptoms of TMJD may also go beyond these and may affect other parts of your body:
- Neck pain
- Headaches or migraines
- Tinnitus, or ringing in the ears
At first, these symptoms might seem unconnected to your jaw problem. However, when you understand the anatomy of the jaw, its functions, and movements, it would make sense how these symptoms can be part of your disorder.
These symptoms may intensify after chewing food, during stressful events, or when you obtain an injury to the head, neck, or jaw.
TMJ Pain Treatment Options
To ease your TMJ disorder and the symptoms accompanying it, your doctor might recommend medications and home remedies, including the following:
- Anti-inflammatory medications
- Over-the-counter pain relievers
- Muscle relaxants
- Applying ice or heat
- Following a soft food diet
- Jaw exercises to stretch and strengthen the jaw
- Stabilization splints or mouth guards
A Natural, Sustainable Treatment Alternative for TMJ Disorders
Many TMJD sufferers spend weeks or even months chasing symptoms, and it can get frustrating. If you are one of those people who feel like you have exhausted all your options to find long-lasting relief, there is still hope for you.
Another option for people with TMJD that is gaining acceptance and popularity is upper cervical chiropractic care. It is a unique subset of chiropractic that concentrates on the link between the head and neck. Little do people know, the C1 (atlas) vertebra is positioned just behind the TMJ on both sides of the face. This atlas vertebra allows the head to move in many directions, and is near enough to the jaw and inner ear to cause problems in this area. This explains why jaw problems are often accompanied by a head, neck, face, and ear symptoms.
The atlas is prone to misalignment due to its location and mobility. This will most likely occur if you have had an accident or injury to the head or neck. If the atlas misaligns, it can negatively impact the jaw by causing uneven muscle tension on either side of the face, which can result in irritation of the nerves of the muscles that control the jaw and postural changes that put more stress on the TMJ.
Our team here at Symmetry Health Chiropractic Center in Cedar Park, Texas, offers a natural and sustainable solution to the underlying cause of TMJ disorders through the assurance of proper atlas alignment. When we can identify and correct the very specific atlas misalignments in our patients, they see a reduction in their jaw pain and discomfort as well as the elimination of the symptoms associated with TMJ disorders such as neck pain, headaches, and earaches. Contact us or visit our chiropractic clinic in Cedar Park to learn how our gentle and accurate method can be part of your recovery from TMJ disorder.