The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is formed by your skull and jawbone, and acts like a sliding hinge. Your TMJ is responsible for opening and closing your mouth, enabling you to talk, chew and yawn. This joint can also be a major pain for many people, especially those who clench their jaws or grind their teeth. TMJ pain is often caused by spasms of the jaw muscles, and there is often also significant upper neck tension. Chiropractors can help relieve this pain through manual mobilization of the TMJ, neck adjustments and muscle release, and can even work on the TMJ muscles inside the mouth! Read on to find out how chiropractic care can help you find relief from TMJ pain.
TMJ pain can be debilitating – just ask Dr. Sasha Hamid, a chiropractor in Ottawa, Ontario. When she was in middle school, she started experiencing severe headaches. Her jaw would get stuck in place and sometimes dislocate. The pain was so severe that she could not concentrate at school and was unable to participate in extracurricular activities.
Sasha was born with a small jaw and needed surgery to relieve her pain, but she could not have it until she was off the pain medications that were getting her through the day for six months. Unsure how she would manage this pain without medication, her surgeon referred her to a chiropractor.
“My chiropractor was the first person to explain why this was happening in a way that I understood,” says Dr. Hamid. “He gave me exercises and put me in control of managing my pain. Thanks to him, I was completely off any pain medications within six months and was able to manage the symptoms through acupuncture, stretches, and manual techniques.”
This experience was what inspired Dr. Hamid to become a chiropractor.
The causes of TMJ pain
The bones of the TMJ are separated by a disc of cartilage to keep your jaw moving smoothly. When those muscles become irritated, the disc is displaced. Common symptoms include popping, a clicking sound or sensation, muscle tenderness, joint tenderness, and being unable to open your jaw wide.
There are three main categories of TMJ pain:
Your risk of developing this pain is increased by jaw injury, stress, or grinding and clenching your teeth.
Managing TMJ pain
There are several things you can do to manage or reverse TMJ-related pain:
- Eating softer foods
- Applying ice packs
- Avoiding extreme jaw movements
- Learning techniques to relax and reduce stress
- Practicing gentle stretching of the jaw to help increase its movement
- Soft tissue massage
Chiropractors can help
Chiropractors can help in a number of ways, including:
- Joint manipulation to help restore movement
- Nearby muscle release by going through the mouth