What is TMJ Disorder?
TMJ is short for Temporomandibular Joint. This joint is on both sides of the face and is where the temporal bone of the skull connects with the mandible (lower jaw bone). This joint can sometimes get our of proper alignment, or not move as it should.
Signs and Symptoms
pain or tenderness of jaw
aching pain in or around the ear
difficulty or painful chewing
locking or popping of the joint
The causes of TMJ disorder are not always clear. It may be caused by an injury, arthritis, or grinding of teeth. It is believed that emotional stress can lead a person to grind his or her teeth while sleeping at night. Many people also believe braces or orthodontic treatments that straighten teeth and realign the bite can cause TMJ issues.
The Medical Approach
From a pain management standpoint, pain relievers, antidepressants, and muscle relaxants are prescribed for this condition. Oral splints and physical therapy are often recommended to strengthen weak muscles. Corticosteroid injections, TMJ arthroscopic surgery, or even open-joint surgery are recommended for more serious and sometimes trauma induced TMJ disorder.
The Non-Medical Approach
The non medical approach to treating TMJ is comprised of 4 primary methods:
Acupuncture: Very thin needles inserted into the skin at specific points on the body have been shown in some cases to improve symptoms.
Relaxation techniques: Consciously slowing breathing can help tense muscles relax including those in the jaw.
Biofeedback: Electronic devices measure tightness or specific jaw muscles and can aid in effective localization of muscles to relax.
The Chiropractic Approach
Chiropractors have a specialized understanding of the joints of the body including the temporomandibular joint. The TMJ can become jarred from its ideal positioning which can lead to uneven wearing of the joint, painful popping while chewing, and even headaches resulting from the poor jaw alignment. Chiropractors can measure this asymmetry and gently adjust this joint to allow for proper function.