Your temporomandibular joint (TMJ) connects your lower jaw to your skull and it is responsible for allowing you to open and close your mouth when you're talking, eating, etc. When this joint is working as it should, you probably won't give it very much thought. If you develop a temporomandibular disorder (TMD), however, it can become something that has a great impact on your life. Chiropractic care can help to relieve the symptoms of TMD and can correct many of the dysfunctions that could be causing it.
Symptoms of TMD
While many of the symptoms of TMD could potentially be caused by other issues, such as a tooth problem or problems with your sinuses, the following cluster of symptoms tend to be typical of TMD:
* pain in the face, TMJ joint, neck, shoulders, and ear area when chewing, speaking, or opening mouth wide
* difficulties with opening the mouth wide
* jaw getting stuck or locked, either opened or closed
* difficulties with chewing or the bite becoming uncomfortable suddenly (teeth not closing together as normal)
* tiredness in the face
* clicking or popping sounds when opening or closing jaw
TMD often comes and goes, which can make diagnosing it challenging at times. Women are 4 times more likely to develop TMD than men.
Causes of TMD
TMD can have a variety of causes, including:
* an injury to the jaw, such as a heavy blow
* excessive grinding or clenching of the teeth
* the soft cushion disc in the TMJ joint moving out of place
* some forms of arthritis
Stress is often cited as a cause of TMD and, while it doesn't directly cause problems with the TMJ joint, it can cause an increase in behaviors that do impact TMD. These can include grinding and clenching of the teeth and jaw and muscle tension.
Can chiropractic care help treat TMD?
Chiropractic care can help to treat TMD in two main ways. It can help to treat problems in other parts of the body that could be affecting the TMJ and it can also treat problems with the joint itself.
1) Stress reduction
Chiropractic care can help to reduce the stress that could be affecting the TMJ joint. This can be through massage treatments, chiropractic manipulation, and exercises/stretching.
When the spine, including the upper spine, is out of alignment, this can put pressure on the nerves. Chiropractic care can help to realign the body to reduce tension and nerve pressure. Manipulations of the joint itself can also help if the problem is arising directly from there.
3) Reduction of muscle tension around the TMJ
Heat and cold therapy applied to the TMJ joint itself can help to resolve issues that are caused by the surrounding muscle tissues, as can massage, gentle stretching, muscle release, and exercise.
4) Pain reduction
Electronic treatments, such as transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), ultrasound, and laser therapy can help to reduce pain when there is a flare-up of TMD.
Temporomandibular joint issues can be very painful and can create restrictions on your day-to-day life, such as being forced to eat softer foods. Chiropractic care can provide a range of treatments that can help to treat temporomandibular disorders, reduce pain, and restore function to the jaw.