Treatment for Jaw Pain & TMJ Pain
One of the most common conditions I co-manage and treat is Temporomandibular Dysfunction (TMD), also referred to as TMJ, which stands for Temporomandibular Joint. In some instances there seems to be a bit of confusion on the topic, so I'd like to dedicate this post to clear the air, so to speak. We're going to review the following:
What are the symptoms of TMJ/TMD?
What is TMJ/TMD?
What causes TMJ/TMD?
How is TMJ/TMD treated?
First, as mentioned above, TMJ stands for Temporomandibular Joint. Our first point of clarification, TMJ is NOT the condition, but the actual anatomy. The condition is referred to as Temporomandibular Dysfunction (TMD). TMD is the most common condition that affects the TMJ ... make sense? For accuracy and totality, the correct abbreviation would be TMJD, for Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction. Whew! Now that that's out of the way, let's dig in! 1. What are the symptoms of TMJ/TMD? This condition is so much more than just "Jaw Pain", or "jaw pain on one side." In actuality, TMJD is frequently associated with :
In some extreme cases, the pain become so severe that it can feel stabbing or electric, as in the case with Trigeminal Neuralgia (TN). As I've treated patients with TN, I can tell you, this is one of the worst pains you can imagine ...
2. What is the Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ)? Let's speak in plain English terms, the TMJ is your jaw joint. You know the jaw ... you kinda need it for just about everything important these days, like talking, eating, and an in incorrect fashion, breathing. We move our jaw joint a LOT, and as I'm sure you're thinking, some move it more than others!
3. What causes TMJ/TMD? Unfortunately, this is quite a bit more complex than it seems. While the pain you may be experiencing is in, or around, the jaw/jaw joint, the actual cause may be located elsewhere. When evaluating TMJ pain, its important to evaluate all possible sources for their potential involvement. For example, TMJD and pain can be caused by:
abnormal motion of the jaw
tmj disc irritation
abnormal jaw muscle tightness
You might be looking at that list thinking, "Is this guy a chiropractor or a dentist?" While I am NOT a dentist, I have strong working relationships with local dental professionals (general and specialty dentistry alike), so that when it becomes apparent that our upper cervical chiropractic services have reached their maximum potential, I'm able to make the best decision for the patient and refer them to another physician who can take the reins and get further results. The future of healthcare is co-management, don't let anyone tell you different. And, if your chosen physician isn't about this, you need to start looking elsewhere. Just sayin'.
4. How is TMJ/TMD treated? Common treatments for TMJ pain include:
neurotonin for reducing nerve activity
manual manipulations of the jaw
dental correction, through braces or mouth guards
I think I could literally feel you wince at the though of paying for the procedures and treatments listed above. Now in some instances, these treatments are indicated, no doubt. Other times, however, they're not. In the instances where more invasive treatments or medications are not needed, the cause of the TMJ pain and dysfunction may in fact becoming from your neck of all places, specifically the upper cervical spine through a condition known as an Atlas Displacement.
The upper cervical spine (aka the upper neck) is intimately connected to key structures that help the jaw function correctly and efficiently. If there's been a shift in spinal structure in the form of an Atlas Displacement, there can be structural and neurological consequences, like nerve pain or clicking and popping. From a neurological, or nerve, standpoint, when an Atlas Displacement is present, it can affect the nervous system at a critical area called the Trigeminal Nucleus. This neurological area is responsible for the messages sent to the muscles that move the jaw, as well as the nerves that sense pain in the head and neck. From a structural standpoint, an Atlas Displacement can change how the head sits on your neck, which can create a secondary issues like forward head posture and/ or a head tilt, thereby creating jaw clicking and jaw popping.
By correcting the Atlas Displacement, not only can the nerves function normally again and regain normal feeling and function in the jaw, the head can also sit normally over the neck and allowing normal structural motion between the head, neck, and jaw itself. Ok. That's all for now, I think we've covered all the bases! If you or someone you know is struggling with problems from TMJD, there's a good chance that our technique approach may be able to help.
Schedule a Complementary Phone Consultation with me if you'd like to chat more about what's going on!
This blog is provided for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. The details of any case mentioned in this post represent a typical patient that we might see and do not describe the circumstances of a specific individual.
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