Everybody has heard that a trip (or a series of trips) to the chiropractor can help with back pain, cricks in the neck and headaches. But did you know that chiropractic care is also helpful for many other ailments?
Do you experience pain while chewing or nagging headaches, often peaking in pressure at the sides or in the front of your face? Perhaps a dysfunction in your temporomandibular joint (or call it TMJ because it is a mouthful) is to blame. Temporomandibular joint disorders (TMD) are one of the many problems a chiropractor may be able to assist with. But what is this disorder, how do you know if you have it and how can a chiropractor help?
What is TMJ?
The term temporomandibular joint disorder is commonly shortened and referred to as TMJ by patients, while a dentist or chiropractor in Tucker, GA more commonly refers to it as a temporomandibular disorder or TMD. TMJ (when being used to refer to the disorder) or TMD describes a group on jaw disorders that occur when the connecting point between the jaw and skull becomes swollen and painful. The temporomandibular joint acts like a sliding hinge enables the mouth to open and close, allowing the jaw to move up and down and side to side (including chewing, talking and yawning).
What Causes TMJ Pain?
The bones of this joint are separated by cartilage that helps to keep jaw movements smooth. If muscles become irritated, the disc can be displaced. The smoothness of the cartilage can also be disrupted by conditions such as arthritis or other joint disease. Other causes of TMD symptoms can include:
- Chewing gum
- Eating “rubbery” foods
- Muscle tightness
- Excessive talking
- Jaw injury
Symptoms of TMJ
The most common symptoms of TMJ pain include:
- Joint tenderness
- Muscle tenderness
- Inability to open the jaw widely
Some people with temporomandibular joint disorders also experience headaches and neck pain. In rare cases, patients have been known to experience subtle dizziness.
TMJ pain is classified into three category types. The most common type is called myofascial pain, which is a pain in the muscles that control the jaw as well as connect the neck and shoulder muscles. The second type of pain is attributed to internal derangement within the joint or a displaced or dislocated disc. The third type of pain is due to a degenerative joint disease of the jaw, such as arthritis.
There are some factors that can influence the onset of TMD or the risk of its development: stress, jaw injury or grinding and clenching of the teeth (called bruxism).
Treatments for TMD from chiropractors in Tucker, GA
According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, treatments for temporomandibular joint disorder may include taking anti-inflammatory and pain medications, avoiding extreme jaw movements, applying ice packs, avoiding chewing gum, reducing stress and/or eating soft foods. Dental splints and physical therapy may also benefit people suffering from TMD. Gentle stretching of the jaw can also help with increasing range of movement in individuals who lose the ability to fully open their mouths as the result of TMJ pain. Manipulation of bones and muscles in the neck has also been proven to help sufferers of TMJ pain.
A chiropractor in Tucker, GA is an expert on muscles and joints and can assess a patient’s TMD and determine the best course of pain management. One of the common methods of doing so is to perform a technique called intraoral myofascial release. During this process, the practitioner releases the SCM, temporalis and digastric muscles that surround the joint by accessing them from the inner side of a patient’s cheek, thus decreasing tension and hopefully a decrease in pain.
Chiropractors may also be able to help by alleviating dysfunction and tension in the highest bones in the spine. Often a percussion instrument is used to reduce nerve interference that could contribute to TMD.
Patients with TMD may need to visit a TMJ chiropractor multiple times to begin to experience an alleviation of pain symptoms. It may be required of the patient to visit their chiropractor regularly to regularly manage their symptoms of TMD.