06 Jan TMJ (Jaw) Pain and Tension – May be contributing to your Headaches
The temporomandibular joints (TMJ) are the two joints that connect the jaw to the skull. These hinge joints slide and rotate in front of each ear, and consist of the temporal bone (the side and base of the skull) and the lower jaw (mandible). When the mandible and the joints are properly aligned, a smooth muscle action can take place, allowing movement of the mouth like chewing. If and when these components are not aligned, several problems can occur.
Temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJD) refer to disorders of the temporomandibular joints, jaw muscles and/or nerves associated in this area. Any TMJD results from problems that prevent this complex system of joints, muscles and nerves from working synchronously. Around 20-30% of the adult population is affected to some degree, more commonly in females then males.
TMJD is a symptom complex rather than a single condition, and is thought to be caused by multiple factors, including:
- Bruxism (grinding of teeth and/or clenching the jaw)
- Stress – physical, mental, emotional
- Injury to the jaw or TMJ itself
- Injury to the head or neck (from whiplash or heavy blow)
- Poor posture
- Degenerative arthritis or rheumatoid arthritis in the TMJ
These factors may be the cause or may aggravate an existing condition of TMJD.
TMJD symptoms may include:
- Jaw pain, discomfort or soreness
- Pain radiating in the face, neck or behind the eyes
- Earaches or ringing in the ears (not caused by an infection of the inner ear canal)
- Clicking, popping or locking of the jaw
- Limited mouth movement/motion
- Clenching or grinding of the teeth
- Teeth sensitivity
My approach to this problem as a Chiropractor is to assess the spine, primarily the upper back (thoracic) and neck (cervical) areas, as well as the TMJ itself. Treatment also focuses on relieving tension in the muscles around the joints themselves, using trigger point therapy. In some cases, misalignment of the jaw that results from improper posture or a back problem can cause your TMJD.
I also practice Neuro-Emotional Technique (NET) – a highly effective muscle testing system, which can alleviate stress and identify the root cause of physical ailments such as TMJD.
Other tips to help alleviate head, neck and jaw problems are:
- Ice: Ice packs can decrease inflammation and also numb pain and promote healing. Do not place an ice pack directly on your skin. Keep the pack wrapped in a clean cloth while you are using it. Do not use an ice pack for more than 10 – 15 minutes at a time.
- Soft Diet: Soft or blended foods allow the jaw to rest temporarily. Remember to avoid hard, crunchy, and chewy foods. Do not stretch your mouth to accommodate such foods as corn on the cob, apples, or whole fruits.
- Jaw Exercises: Slow, gentle jaw exercises may help increase jaw mobility.
- Relaxation Techniques: Relaxation and meditation can be helpful in dealing with the pain that accompanies TMJD. Deep, slow breathing enhances relaxation and modulates pain sensations. Some have found yoga, massage and meditation helpful in reducing stress and aiding relaxation.
- Side Sleeping: Sleep on your side using pillow support between shoulder and neck.
- Relax Facial Muscles: Make a concerted effort to relax your lips, and keep teeth apart.
- Be mindful of clenching your jaw and teeth grinding: this can commonly happen in your sleep. If you wake in the morning with tension or headache, it could mean you’re subconsciously stressed, and that the body isn’t relaxed during rest.
To see if Chiropractic or NET can help you, and you’re new to the clinic feel free to book in for a FREE 15 minute spinal and posture check. Or have a chat to me at your next consultation.