Your TMJ, or temporomandibular joint, is one of the more complicated joints of the body. Located on either side of the face just in front of each ear, the TMJ connects the lower part of your jaw (the mandible) to the rest of the head. It is designed to act as a hinge to open and close the mouth, and also to glide from side to side.
Disorders of the TMJ are fairly common. Jaw pain and dysfunction can occur after an accident or injury or can arise over time if the jaw is not in proper alignment. Temporomandibular joint disorders affect twice as many women as men, especially during childbearing years. It is the most common non-dental related cause of chronic facial pain.
How Do I Know if I Have a TMJ Problem?
There are a variety of signs and symptoms of a TMJ problem. These symptoms may arise with any jaw movement – opening, closing, or moving the jaw from side to side:
- Neck pain
- Earaches or ringing in the ear (tinnitus)
- Clicking or popping noises when opening the mouth
- Pain when biting, chewing, talking or yawning
- Tenderness of the muscles of the jaw on the sides of the face
What Are My Care Options?
There are many options available to try and minimize TMJ pain and discomfort. Oftentimes, over-the-counter pain relievers and anti-inflammatories are recommended to help reduce the pain. Sometimes muscle relaxants are recommended to address unequal muscle tension on the sides of the face and jaw that are contributing to the dysfunction. Another common solution is mouth guards, usually worn at night to try and reduce teeth grinding and associated pain.
While most people think to visit either their medical doctor or dentist, there is another option available that is providing lasting relief to TMJD sufferers. Upper cervical chiropractic addresses very specific misalignments of the uppermost vertebra of the spine, the atlas. A misalignment of the atlas can affect the TMJ in several ways – it can cause unequal muscle tension in the face affecting the resting position of the jaw, and it can also interrupt nerve signals that tell the jaw how to move and function. Frequently, all that is needed are gentle adjustments to realign the atlas and time for any damaged soft tissue to heal.