Can Chiropractic Care Help With TMJ?
Your temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is located at each side of your head and it connects your lower jaw to your skull. The TMJ is responsible for opening and closing your mouth, as well as moving your jaw forwards and downwards. The TMJ is a very active joint and it helps to eat, talk, and laugh. So when something does go wrong with it, this can have a big impact on our quality of life.
What is temporomandibular joint dysfunction?
Temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJD) occurs when the TMJ is no longer working as it should. Symptoms of TMJD include:
pain in the face and neck
limited movement in the jaw
jaw completely locking
a clicking or popping sound when opening or closing the mouth
a change in the way that the teeth are aligned
What causes temporomandibular joint dysfunction?
There are two main types of causes of TMJD: structural and behavioral. Structural causes include arthritis, joint erosion, or improper alignment of the TMJ. Behavioral causes include grinding or clenching the teeth (which can be triggered by stress), braces, poor diet, lack of sleep.
How can a chiropractor help?
Many people with temporomandibular joint dysfunction became dissatisfied with the standard treatments offered to them because they can have such a restrictive impact on their day-to-day life. These treatments can include measures such as only eating soft foods, reducing jaw movements as much as possible, or the use of a mouthguard. In severe and chronic cases, the fluid may be drained from the joint or the joint may be replaced entirely.
A chiropractor takes a different approach to treating TMJD. Rather than reducing your behavior to try and stop your jaw from hurting, they will focus on finding and fixing the root cause of the problem. They will take two approaches to this: treatments that are directed at the joint itself and treatments to the surrounding muscles and structures.
Treating the TMJ itself
A chiropractic adjustment involves the chiropractor using their hands to physically bring the joint back into alignment. Adjustments can be used on any joint, not just those in the spine, and they can be effective for the TMJ. Once the joint is back in alignment, it will start working as it should.
Treating the surrounding muscles and structures
But treating the joint itself often isn't enough. The condition will have put stress and strain on the surrounding muscles in the face, and even as far back as the neck. A chiropractor may perform an adjustment on the cervical vertebrae in the neck. They can also perform soft tissue massage and stretches on the facial muscles that are affected by the TMJ. This will help to loosen the muscles and prevent stiffness, reduce swelling and inflammation, and increase blood flow to the area to promote healing.
Temporomandibular joint disorder can be painful and debilitating. Standard treatments for the condition are often very restrictive and uncomfortable. A chiropractor can help by directly treating the joint itself as well as the surrounding muscles and structures to help treat the condition fully so that you can go back to normal life.