The temporomandibular joint, or TMJ, connects your mandible (the lower part of the jaw) to the temporal bone of your skull. These joints, located just in front of each of your ears, give us the ability to talk, chew our food, and yawn. TMJ disorders are caused by issues with the muscles and ligaments that move the jaw, problems within the joints themselves, or an issue with the cartilage disc within each joint. TMJD is a broad term that describes a collection of various disorders that affect the jaw. The muscles and joints of the jaw are among the most complex in the entire body, and because they contain a lot of nerve endings, can cause a great deal of pain.
TMJ Risk Factors
Since the jaw is such a complex joint, combining both hinging and gliding movements, it can be difficult to isolate exactly what is causing pain or dysfunction. The cartilage disc which helps to keep jaw movements smooth can shift out of its proper alignment or wear out over time. The muscles of the jaw can develop trigger points and create abnormal movement patterns. The jaw can also be injured by an impact from a car accident, sports injury or other trauma. There are also known factors that can increase your risk of developing TMJD:
- Women are more likely to develop TMJ issues. Up to 90% of people who visit a doctor for a TMJ problem are female. This can be due to several factors, including hormonal influence, stress or anxiety, and sleep disturbances.
- TMJ disorders are most common in the 18-45-year-old age range.
- People with other joint disorders (such as osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis) may be at higher risk of developing TMJD.
- Chronic teeth-clinchers are more likely to develop problems with their jaw than those who do not clench or grind.
- People with high stress levels are more at risk for TMJ dysfunction. Stress can not only cause you to clench your jaw, but It can also increase levels of inflammation in the body and interfere with normal hormone balance.
Can my TMJ Disorder be Related to Other Symptoms?
There are many symptoms that are associated with TMJD due to how nerve pathways run as well as the jaw joints’ proximity to other structures in your head and neck. Many people with TMJ dysfunction often experience symptoms such as:
- Aches or pains around the jaw joints and throughout the face
- Tinnitus, or ringing in the ears
- Clicking or popping in the jaw when chewing, yawning, talking, etc.
- Sleep difficulties
- Bruxism, or grinding your teeth
- Neck pain
- Locking of the jaw
To learn more about the connection between head and neck injuries and TMJ download our complimentary e-book by clicking the image below.
Top 3 Tips for Natural TMJ Relief
#1: Reduce stress – learning better stress management techniques (since we can’t eliminate all stress from our lives) can help give your TMJ some relief. Stress and TMJ disorders are linked in several ways, so coping with it by doing things like practicing yoga, meditation, and breathing techniques can help your jaw. Other ways to relax and wind down after a long day can include reading or taking a warm bath before bedtime.
#2: Avoid things that make your jaw tense – little habits that you may not even realize you’re doing can be contributing to your TMJ pain and dysfunction. Things such as holding your telephone between your shoulder and jaw, biting your nails, or constantly chewing gum can stress the muscles and joints of the jaw.
#3: Exercise your jaw and your body – gently moving your jaw through its natural ranges of motion can help train the muscles to work evenly. Opening and closing your mouth as well as shifting your lower jaw from left to right without forcing any movements can help keep your temporomandibular joints healthy and functioning properly. Overall exercise is great for reducing stress, balancing hormones, and encouraging better sleep which can all help TMJD recovery.
Taking Care of your Neck Helps your Jaw
Neck pain is one of the most common symptoms that come along with TMJ disorders. Poor neck alignment and posture can contribute to problems with the jaw. The uppermost vertebra in the neck, your atlas, sits in very close proximity to the joints of the jaw on either side of your face. The atlas is special for a couple of reasons – it bears the weight of the head and it is the most freely movable segment of the spine. If the atlas is not aligned properly, it can have an impact on normal jaw positioning and movement. It can also cause abnormal tension in the muscles of the face and jaw, leading to TMJ disorders.
TMJ Pain Relief Ames IA
Upper cervical chiropractic is a branch of the chiropractic profession that looks specifically at how atlas alignment influences the ability of the rest of the body to function optimally. Not only can an atlas misalignment directly influence jaw function due to how closely it sits to the TMJ, but the atlas also protects the brainstem. The brainstem is home to the origins of the nerves that supply the muscles of the face and jaw. If that atlas misaligns, it can cause an imbalance of muscle tone, leading to improper jaw movement and subsequent pain.
At Read Health Center we utilize an extremely precise and gentle technique to restore normal atlas alignment. If you are suffering from TMJ pain and dysfunction, especially if you can recall any type of head or neck injury in the past, then having your neck examined by an upper cervical chiropractor can help to provide you with some clues as to the root cause of your condition. If an atlas misalignment is found to be a contributing factor in your TMJ disorder, then you might find lasting, natural relief under upper cervical chiropractic care.
To schedule a complimentary consultation with Dr. Read call our Ames office at 515-233-8880 or simply click the button below.
if you are outside of the local area you can find an Upper Cervical Doctor near you at www.uppercervicalawareness.com.