Temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ) is a common health condition that affects around 10 million people at any given time, but it can have a dramatic impact on day-to-day functioning. There are a variety of treatment options for TMJ, some of which can be invasive and/or have side effects. Chiropractic care is an approach that can help to alleviate the symptoms of TMJ, without using medication or invasive treatments.
What is TMJ?
The TMJ is the joint that connects the jaw to the skull and is located just below the temple. It is a ball and socket joint and it is responsible for opening and closing the mouth, as well as moving it from side to side. There is a complex group of muscles surrounding the TMJ that are involved in its movement.
When the TMJ or the muscles surrounding it become damaged or inflamed, this can result in a wide range of symptoms that can be painful and can reduce functioning.
Symptoms of TMJ:
• pain in the jaw joint and/or the surrounding muscles
• audible popping or clicking when moving the jaw
• unusual or restricted movement of the jaw
Causes of TMJ:
• head or neck trauma
• skeletal malformation
• sleep problems, including teeth grinding or jaw clenching
TMJ is more common in women than in men.
How is TMJ treated?
The standard treatment options for TMJ are often focused on reducing the symptoms, rather than the root cause of the problem. They can include:
• anti-inflammatory medication
• warm compress
• switching to a soft-food diet
• nighttime mouth guard
• Botox injections
Many patients with TMJ worry that the treatment options, such as switching to a soft-food diet, can mean that their lives will be restricted long term. And invasive treatment options such as Botox injections or surgery can have quite serious complications or side effects.
How can chiropractic care treat TMJ?
Chiropractors are experts in the treatment of joint disorders and are trained to improve joint mobility and reduce joint restriction. The TMJ is no different, and chiropractic care is well-placed to be able to offer treatment.
The chiropractic treatment of TMJ focuses on three main areas:
• treating the joint itself
• treating the surrounding muscles
• treating the neck and spine
Treating the joint
Chiropractic adjustments to the TMJ can bring it back into alignment so that it can move more freely. This can reduce any restrictions on jaw movements and reduce TMJ symptoms.
Treating the surrounding muscles
If the surrounding muscles have become inflamed, this can restrict the movement of the joint and can cause the symptoms associated with TMJ. Treatments such as trigger point therapy can reduce this inflammation and restore joint function.
Treating the neck and spine
All of the muscles and joints in the head and neck are connected. Any problems with the upper spine have the potential to impact the function of the TMJ, so treating them can help to reduce symptoms.
Unlike many of the other treatment options for TMJ, chiropractic care focuses on treating the physical causes of the problem, rather than attempting to only mask the symptoms. This can help to provide long-term relief from TMJ and help restore patients normal day-to-day functioning.