When you talk about joint pain, most people don’t immediately think of their temporal mandibular joint (TMJ). It’s the joint that connects your lower jaw (your mandible) to your skull. You have one on each side, located just in front of each ear, and it slides open and closed every time you yawn, eat, talk, or laugh.
Temporal mandibular joint disorder, also called temporomandibular disorders or TMD, can cause pain and other symptoms in the joint or the muscles that support movement of your jaw. There are a number of underlying causes of TMJ disorders. They can occur from arthritis in the joint, erosion or misalignment of the disc within the joint, trauma to your jaw, dental issues, muscle imbalances, or even genetics. Clenching or grinding your teeth, called bruxism, is frequently related to TMD, bruxism can cause TMJ problems, be the result of TMD, or both.
The symptoms of temporal mandibular joint disorder are varied, and in some cases may be hard to link to your TMJ. They include:
- Pain or tenderness in the muscles in your face or jaw
- Pain in one or both of the temporal mandibular joints
- Pain in and around your ears
- Tooth pain
- Clicking or popping noises when you open and close your mouth
- Inability to open your mouth completely
- Locking of the joint
Your symptoms may be aggravated by eating thick, dense, or chewy foods that put stress on the joint. If you tend to clench your teeth, your symptoms are also likely to be aggravated by stress. That’s because stress causes you to tighten your muscles, especially those in your upper back, neck, and jaw. The muscles most related to clenching or tooth grinding are your masseter muscles, which are the small but powerful muscles used for chewing found at the lower corner of your jaw.
Treating Temporal Mandibular (TMJ) Disorders
Traditional treatments for the TMJ include a splint to realign the joint, a mouth guard to be worn at night to prevent tooth grinding, analgesics to relieve the pain, and limiting foods that aggravate the joint. At BodaHealth, we are able to offer patients with temporalmandibular joint problems natural treatments that are safe and effective. These include:
– Acupuncture can be helpful for your TMJ in a number of ways. Research has found that acupuncture is an effective treatment for head and facial pain. While acupuncture can’t reverse structural issues with the joint, it can help relieve pain, reduce inflammation, relax tight muscles, and alleviate muscle spasms related to TMD. It can also help reduce clicking or popping in the joint by relaxing the muscles in front of your ear, which helps to reduce force on the joint. Acupuncture is also a great choice for TMD, because it works to relieve stress by increasing the circulation of endorphins, which are feel-good neurotransmitters in your brain. In many cases, relieving stress also relieves tooth clenching and grinding.
– Osteopathy is also used as an effective way to treat TMD. Our osteopathic practitioner uses a manual therapy to manipulate, rebalance, and strengthen your musculoskeletal system. Her focus is on diagnosing and correcting imbalances of your muscles, joints, and spine. Using hands-on techniques that involve gentle manipulation of your muscles and soft tissue, osteopathy helps to correct altered biomechanics, loosen tight muscles, and increase circulation to the area to promote healing.
-Because TMJ disorders are a joint condition often related to muscle tightness or imbalances, therapeutic massage can be extremely helpful. Our registered massage therapists (RMTs) are skilled and experienced working with patients with temporal mandibular joint issues. They are able to focus their treatments on your upper back, neck, and facial muscles, especially those that are responsible for tooth clenching and grinding. Often by relieving tightness in the muscles surrounding the joint, a massage therapist is able to relieve pain within the joint itself.
At BodaHealth, we use a therapy called Perineural Injection Treatment (PIT) that is effective for patients with TMJ pain. PIT involves a series of small, superficial injections of a 5% dextrose (a type of sugar) solution in sterilized water. PIT helps to calm pain conditions caused by nerve entrapment, inflammation, injury, sprains, and strains. We have found it to be an excellent choice in treating TMJ pain that’s been difficult to diagnose or that’s been resistant to other therapies. Scientists believe that PIT works because the injected solution targets and calms pain receptors just under the skin that don’t respond well to anti-inflammatory agents or steroid injections.
Temporal mandibular joint disorders can be frustrating for a couple of reasons. First, it can present with symptoms that may seem unrelated to your jaw, making it difficult to pinpoint the underlying cause. Second, it’s impossible to rest the joint to let it heal, as you need to open your mouth hundreds of times each day to talk and eat. At BodaHealth, our experienced practitioners are able to help determine the cause of your symptoms and offer a number of options to find the right treatment to fit your specific needs. You don’t need to go through life with facial pain, headaches, tooth clenching, or popping noises whenever you open your mouth. Contact us at BodaHealth to find out how we can alleviate your TMJ symptoms!