Chiropractic for Temporomandibular Joint Disorder or TMJ, is the term for the paired joints between the upper and lower jaws, as well as the term generally used to describe pain or other dysfunction of these same joints. Initial treatment for a TMD can include applying heat or cold to the jaw area, eating mostly soft foods, taking anti-inflammatory drugs, or wearing a bite guard in the mouth at night. For those with TMJ symptoms, chiropractic is available as an alternative to those more invasive treatments, such as surgery or implants. Chiropractic care for the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) can ease pain by correcting the misalignment between the spine and nervous system. Chiropractic can be effective at reducing the pain associated with TMJ, either when used alone or as a complement to other treatments. This is because, rather than change the diet or modify the teeth, it relaxes the muscles, adjusts the joint and uses specific trigger points to accurately re-position the jaw. When done successfully, this will not only relieve pain in the short run (as would medications or eating soft foods), but it will help prevent TMJ pain from returning. Chiropractic treatment of the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) focuses on relieving tension in the muscles around the joints themselves—working both outside and inside the mouth, using massage and trigger point therapy. A trigger point is a very sensitive area made of muscle fibers. Trigger points feel like knots and may cause pain or even a twitching response when pressure is applied to them. A chiropractor can manipulate trigger points in such a way to alleviate the pain associated with them.
Trigger points common to TMJ include:
• Trapezius muscle, located at the base of the neck. Manipulating this trigger point can influence the areas behind the ear, at the temple and at the jaw bone.
• Sternocleidomastoid muscle, located along the neck from the collarbone to the ear. This trigger point can be used to relieve pain in the forehead, front of the jaw and around the eye socket.
• Masseter muscle, located at the back of the jaw. This refers to pain in the upper jaw, ear and above the eye.
• Medial Pterygoid muscle, located behind the molars on the jaw.
This trigger point influences pain in the TMJ, as well as in the ear, nose, lower jaw, and the neck. Adjustments to the joints can also be done by hand, using a technique that causes a tiny stretch inside the joint to release any fibrous attachments made by the body due to previous trauma.
Many Americans experience some sort of TMD. In fact, the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) estimates that 10 million Americans have a TMD. Additionally, around 75 percent of the U.S. population may experience one or more symptoms of a TMD.
Conservative, Non-Invasive Treatment
Top experts, including the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and NIDCR, recommend conservative, reversible treatments as the best route of action. Our doctors agree and recommend choosing non-invasive treatments first, rather than aggressive treatments, like surgery and implants, which penetrate the tissues of the face, jaw or joint.
Chiropractic treatments may alleviate some of the symptoms of TMD through manipulation of the jaw and muscles surrounding the temporomandibular joint, potentially relieving tension and pain.
Issues with the complex temporomandibular joint and its surrounding muscles and tissues can cause a variety of symptoms—and some of these symptoms on their own may not indicate a disorder. The most common symptoms are:
- Dull, aching pain around the ear which may extend to the side and back of the head or down the neck
- Difficulty or pain when biting, chewing, talking or opening and closing the mouth
- Clicking, popping or grating sound when opening or closing the mouth
- Jaw or TMJ pain
- Locking of the jaw
If you think you are suffering from TMD or can relate to these symptoms, Chiropractic, Massage and Acupuncture may help! In the meanwhile, rest the jaw when possible and to pay close attention to habits, such as teeth grinding or nail-biting, which may be worsening the pain or disorder. Call our office to schedule an appointment!