Dear Doc: My dentist just said you may have TMJ (aka, your jaw hurts!) Can a Chiropractor Help?
Google will tell you that the TMJ joint refers to your temporomandibular joints. These joints are positioned on both sides of your face and they make it possible for you to open and close your mouth (take a chow down on that burger right in front you…that’s your TMJ working!)
The TMJ also controls the lower jaw, helping it move from side to side, chew your food, and lastly swallow. These joints are what orthopods refer to as “ball and socket joints” wherein a disc is positioned between them. This disc cushions the joint and helps enable you to move it without a grinding or pain. When this disc or joint is disturbed or misaligned it causes pain. You’re unable to open your mouth to eat, or even laugh! The stiffness in the TMJ can also cause give you other symptoms such as headaches, stiffness of neck, and back pain. All of this sounds awful (and it is!), here is a little more information about the type of pain.
What are the 3 main types of pain?
When the disc between the TMJ joint is disturbed you can get popping, clicking, muscle pain, or stiffness (CCA, 2018).
The 3 main types of TMJ pain are:
1) Muscle pain: this would be pain in the muscles that surround the joint and help with any movement of it. This can also cause referral pain into the neck or shoulders;
2) Arthritic pain: this can be due to injury of the jaw, grinding or clenching of teeth;
3) Dislocation of the disc (CCA, 2018).
How can I alleviate the pain?
After being assessed by the Chiropractor, we can confirm the diagnosis and start taking steps to treat the pain. Often the first steps are rehabilitative exercises of the jaw, using cold therapy, and starting with consuming softened foods. We also take a look at the internal muscles of the jaw from within the mouth as well as the joint itself. Usually, small adjustments/mobilizations and release of the muscles are a sure way to give back the movement to the TMJ and decrease pain.
Secondly, Acupuncture treatments work extremely well to help release stiff muscles and reduce any inflammation that has caused the jaw to be restricted.
Stretching exercises can help with TMJ pain during a flare-up. They reduce muscle and joint tension, offering longer-term relief:
- Place the tip of your tongue on the roof of your mouth. Open your mouth as wide as you comfortably can, and hold for 5-10 seconds.
- Place the tip of your tongue on the roof of your mouth. Glide your lower jaw out as far as it will go and then back in as far as it will go. Hold for 5-10 seconds in each position.
- Slowly and steadily open your mouth as wide as it will comfortably open, with your tongue in a neutral position. Hold for 5-10 seconds then close your mouth. Next, open your mouth slightly and glide your lower jaw back and forth 5-10 times.
- Close your mouth. With your head facing straight ahead, glance to the right with your eyes only. Extend your lower jaw to the left and hold for 5-10 seconds. Repeat on the opposite side.
- Place a thin object, such as a pencil or paintbrush, in between your front teeth. Slide your lower jaw forward so that the object rests in between your back teeth and front teeth. Hold for 20 seconds.
As the fifth exercise becomes easier, people can use wider objects to separate their front and back teeth (https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/317871.php)
Due to the nature of TMJ and how much it can affect your quality of life, we recommend seeing your local Chiropractor to help manage the pain. We would be able to prescribe you with the best and most effective treatment!