The joints on either side of your jaw, known as the temporomandibular joints (TMJ), are sliding hinges that control the movement of your jaw as you open and close your mouth. Normally this movement is smooth and comfortable, because the bones that interact in the joint are covered in cartilage and separated by a small disk that absorbs shock. When a TMJ disorder develops, however, you can experience pain in the joint and in the muscles that control jaw movement.
How a TMJ disorder manifests can vary considerably from patient to patient. Some people experience relatively mild symptoms that may feel more annoying than debilitating, while others suffer from chronic pain and limited movement. Sometimes the discomfort is temporary, responding to self-care measures, while in extreme cases doctors might recommend surgery to try to relieve the pain. Finally, though there are some risk factors that predispose certain people to TMJ disorders, many times the exact cause of the problem isn’t clear.
Understanding TMJ Disorders
While not every patient will experience the same symptoms, common signs of TMJ disorders include:
- Pain in one or both temporomandibular joint(s)
- Jaw pain or tenderness
- Aching in and around the ear
- Pain while chewing
- Difficulty chewing
- Aching facial pain
- Difficulty opening or closing the mouth due to locking of the joint
Patients may also experience a grating sensation or clicking sounds when they move their jaw to talk or chew. A clicking sound on its own, if there is no pain or discomfort, is not necessarily a sign of a problem, though.
Sometimes TMJ disorders have an obvious cause, as when the shock-absorbing disk in the joint becomes misaligned, the cartilage is damaged by arthritis, or the joint itself is damaged (for example, if someone’s jaw was fractured in a car accident). Some types of arthritis, such as rheumatoid and osteoarthritis, as well as certain diseases of the connective tissue and bruxism (grinding the teeth), may heighten the risk of developing a TMJ disorder. Whether or not you can identify a reason for persistent jaw pain and tenderness, or difficulty opening or closing your mouth completely, should not prevent you from taking the problem seriously. Ongoing symptoms mean you should seek professional care, because untreated TMJ disorders can get worse and harder to resolve over time.
Treatment for TMJ Disorders
The first step in dealing with jaw pain is a physical examination to try to determine the source of your pain. Often, patients may be prescribed medication, oral splints, physical therapy, or even counseling (to try to modify behaviors that contribute to the problem) before more drastic interventions are tried. For those who dislike the idea of relying on painkillers or undergoing surgical procedures, however, chiropractic care offers an alternative that addresses the underlying issues and produces long-term relief.
While chiropractic treatment is most commonly associated with the spine, it is truly about the proper alignment of the musculoskeletal system throughout the body. Misalignments in the neck and spine can be a key contributor to TMJ pain, putting unnatural stresses on the joint that restrict movement and create discomfort. When alignment is corrected and muscle tension released, symptoms resolve without resorting to drugs or invasive medical techniques.
At Divine Spine, our gentle method of chiropractic tAt Divine Spine, our gentle computerized Sigma Adjustment system can provide relief for TMJ pain. We start with a comprehensive examination, including digital images of the neck and back, to pinpoint misalignments and areas in need of adjustment. From there we develop an individualized treatment plan designed to eliminate pain and tension in the joints and muscles of your jaw. There are no jarring, harsh motions—just precise, careful adjustments that comfortably restore proper alignment.
Discomfort when you talk, chew, or even yawn can be frustrating and upsetting, but Divine Spine has the natural solution for your pain. We’re focused on returning you to comfort and full function with a long-term solution that doesn’t rely on medication or invasive techniques. Visit our Orange Hills location to discover the Divine Spine difference and find out how we can help you. To learn more about our TMJ treatments or to book your free initial consultation, contact us here.