neck pain

TMJD: A Natural Solution to A Complex Problem

Your jaw is among the most complicated joints in your body.  It has a broad range of motion.  It can open and close, move side to side, and slide forward and backward.  All of these motions are utilized during talking, chewing, and yawning. The jaw joint is commonly referred to as the TMJ or temporomandibular joint.  There are many reasons why the jaw may not be functioning properly, and that can lead to pain and discomfort, as well as other associated symptoms.

The way people experience TMJ dysfunction can vary greatly:

        Toothache
        Earache
        Headache
        Neck pain
        Jaw clenching
        Tenderness in the muscles of the face and jaw

Because of the variety of symptoms that a person with TMJ problems can experience, it can be difficult to find a way to address the root cause.  Recommendations often include pain medications or anti-inflammatories, and perhaps being fitted for a bite guard.  These approaches, unfortunately, provide only surface-level relief.

Upper Cervical Care and the TMJ

The focus of upper cervical chiropractic is on the upper two vertebrae in the spine.  What many people may not realize is how closely positioned these vertebrae are to the joints of the jaw on each side.  Because of this, even a slight malposition of the atlas (C1) or axis (C2) can affect the jaw's ability to work properly.  Given the fact that many people who suffer from TMJ pain or discomfort also have neck pain and headaches, it makes sense that the jaw and the neck are connected. The upper cervical chiropractic approach is designed to be extremely specific.  Adjustments are very gentle and do not use a great deal of force to accomplish the necessary correction.   When the upper cervical spine is realigned, the surrounding nerves and soft tissues have the chance to heal.  This can lead to a jaw that moves and works the way it was designed to.

References: https://www.nidcr.nih.gov/oralhealth/Topics/TMJ/TMJDisorders.htm

Caring for TMJ Disorders Naturally

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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
  • Headaches
  • 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.

3 Categories of Temporomandibular Joint Disorders

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The temporomandibular joint, or TMJ, is the joint on each side of the face that connects the mandible (lower jaw bone) with the rest of the skull.  These jaw joints are heavily utilized – they move every time we talk, yawn, or chew our food.  However, when one or both sides of the jaw are not functioning properly, it can lead to pain and discomfort while doing simple day to day activities.  While exact numbers are not known, it is estimated that over 10 million Americans are affected by disorders of the TMJ.

Disorders of the jaw can be placed into three main categories:

  1. Problems with the muscles that control jaw movement and function.
  2. Issues within the joint, such as with the disc or condyle of the jaw.
  3. Arthritis that causes degeneration, inflammation, or both within the TMJ

TMJ Problems Can Start in the Neck

Many people don't realize how close the joints of the jaw are on either side of the face to the uppermost vertebra in the spine (the atlas).  The way the head is able to sit on the neck has a large influence on both the resting position and the movement of the jaw.  The atlas can shift out of normal alignment as a result of an accident or injury, or from daily wear and tear.  When this happens, it can affect jaw alignment as well as compromise the nerves that control the function of the muscles of the jaw and face.

Correcting the root cause, in this case the atlas misalignment, can begin the healing process, which may lead to lasting relief from TMJ disorders.  Upper cervical chiropractic care focuses specifically on atlas alignment and how it relates to the body's overall ability to function normally.  Once we identify the problem, correcting the atlas is gentle and precise. Some patients even report an immediate improvement in their level of jaw discomfort.