I’ve been running a TMJ pain chiropractic clinic near Escondido in California for several years now. And the more temporomandibular joint disorders I’ve dealt with, the more I’ve learned about this condition.
Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJD) is basically pain felt in the jaw joint, as well as the muscles controlling jaw movement. Causes of pain generally vary, such as genetics, arthritis, and an injury to the jaw. For some, the excessive grinding and clenching of the teeth is also a cause.
Most TMJD cases are temporary, making them easier to deal with. Many home remedies and non-surgical care methods work. Surgery is usually a last resort. This is the last solution for when these forms of therapy fail to bring desired results.
This article should educate you about TMJ disorder and its symptoms. I’ll also provide you with a natural care option proven that can give you much needed relief. If you or a loved suffer from TMJD, this article is for you.
The Common Causes of TMJD
Before we delve into the causes of TMJ disorders, let’s first look at how the jaw functions.
The temporomandibular joint acts like a hinge with sliding motions. Cartilage protects the bones that interact in the joint, while a small shock-absorbing disc separates them.
TMJ disorders can develop from various causes. One common cause is an injury to the jaw, usually from something hitting the head, neck, or jaw area. Injuries can also occur from overextending the jaw (to take a very large bite of food) or leaving the jaw open wide for a period of time (like during dental procedures). Another cause is wear and tear on the discs in the jaw joints, causing them to move out of alignment or not function correctly. Damage in the cartilage of the joint can cause TMJ disorder.
Those who suffer from either rheumatoid or osteoarthritis have a higher risk of contracting TMJ disorders. The same thing goes for those who’ve experienced jaw injuries in the past. There are also certain connective tissue diseases that may adversely affect the temporomandibular joint.
Doctors and dentists have several ways of diagnosing a TMJ disorder. They will usually look for any popping or cracking sounds as the mouth opens and shuts. They may feel out certain areas of the jaw where the pain exists by lightly pressing on it. And they may watch the way the jaw moves as the patient opens and closes it.
There are other ways to detect a TMJ disorder, such as x-rays, as well as MRI and CT scans. In a severe case, a doctor may do a TMJ arthroscopy, where a small thin tube goes into the joint space and takes pictures of the affected area.
Medicated Care Methods for TMJ Disorders
Here are some relief methods for TMJD that involve medication. Most of these are forms of medication intended for pain relief, and one of them is muscle relaxants.
TMJD patients can use muscle relaxants for a few days to alleviate pain from extremely tense or spasming jaw muscles. Muscle relaxer medications are ready for purchase over the counter in a drugstore.
Tricyclic antidepressants are also an option for TMJD sufferers. They contain amitriptyline initially intended to deal with depressive episodes. But for TMJD patients, this form of medication also provides pain relief.
Anti-inflammatory medicine also acts as a pain reliever for TMJD. Patients resort to this form of medication when over-the-counter pain relievers don’t work that well. Other times, doctors prescribe anti-inflammatory drugs for stronger medication purposes.
Examples of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicine are Advil and Motrin IB.
Non-Medicated Care Methods for TMJD
Some people try to avoid medication and look to other forms of relief. One of them is physical therapy, which may include moist heat, ice, and some exercises to stretch and strengthen the jaw muscles.
Counseling is another form of non-medicated care for TMJ disorder. It enables patients to have a better understanding of their condition. It also makes them aware of any behaviors that may aggravate the pain. With ample counseling, patients develop better coping methods for the stress in their life. They learn to control teeth clenching, grinding, even the habit fingernail biting.
Other lifestyle changes can also help relieve TMJ pain when it is relatively mild. Patients should avoid chewing gum, chewing hard foods like ice or tough meat, and opening their mouths very wide like when yawning or cheering at a sporting event.
Understanding Neck Misalignments and TMJ Disorders
One other overlooked reason for TMJ disorders are neck misalignments. The C1 vertebrae, otherwise known as the atlas, is the first bone of the neck. Located close to the ear and jaw, the atlas’s mobility and shape make it susceptible to misalignments.
It only takes one hard blow to the head or neck or a serious fall to cause a misalignment. The same thing goes for a whiplash injury or other forms of trauma in the neck. And even the slightest misalignment may adversely impact facial nerves, ears, and the jaw.
Once jaw alignment becomes impacted, inflammation may occur around the TMJ area. Muscle irritation and tension may also take place, all of which can lead to TMJ disorders.
Upper Cervical Chiropractic Care for TMJD
One practical and natural method to correct neck misalignments is upper cervical chiropractic care. And here in my clinic at Rickards Chiropractic, I locate misalignments through unique imaging methods. These methods help me pinpoint the exact location and angle of the misalignment.
I make use of a gentle, precise, and low-force technique to encourage the vertebrae back to their correct positions.
And once the bones are back in alignment, the body begins to slowly self-heal from the damage. As a result, TMJD pain slowly fades and eventually disappears in many patients.
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