The Keys to Ending Temporomandibular Joint (jaw) Pain

If you suffer from the following symptoms, there is help for you to get relief and prevent symptoms from recurring.

  • Pain in the temporomandibular joint (jaw)
  • Locking episodes or getting stuck opened or closed
  • Limited range in opening your mouth
  • Facial pain or facial muscle fatigue
  • Noises in the jaw like clicking, snapping, or popping
  • Frequent headaches or neck pain
  • Pain, ringing or stuffiness in the ears
  • Tingling in the face
  • A feeling of altered alignment in your jaw.
Anatomy of the TMJ

Anatomy of the TMJ

Your dentist can evaluate the alignment of your teeth and jaw and provide splinting to improve your jaw alignment and give relief. The next step is to find other treatments to further relieve pain, promote healing and to make permanent changes in the movement patterns that created the pain in the first place.  In order to do this, it helps to understand the anatomy or structures of this joint.

The TMJ is a synovial joint formed by the condyle of the mandible (the knob portion at the top of the jaw) the articular eminence of the temporal bone  (the part of the joint that is concave) and the articular disc that is interposed between the two and divides it into two parts.  The muscles of the joint are labeled in the picture on the left.  The temporalis and the masseter close the jaw and clench the teeth, the temporalis also pulls the mandible back.  The medial and lateral pterygoids located on either side of the joint and are deeper, smaller and closely attached, assist with rotary motions.  Strain,  increased muscle tension and trigger points in these muscles create the painful symptoms and can lead to faulty joint mechanics and degeneration of the joint.  The disc normally glides forward with the condyle when you open your mouth.  If the joint is not well aligned and the muscles do not function in sync, the connective tissues break down, the disc can be pushed too far forward creating further stress on the connective tissues of the disc and degeneration of the disc and its connective tissues and degeneration and malfunction of the joint ensues.

Treatment

In order to successfully treat the TMJ it is necessary to address what is causing the pain and to prevent further degeneration of the joint.  If you already have arthritis or degeneration of this joint, relief is still in sight.

Start with pain relief:   Microcurrent electrotherapy is milder and safer than standard electrotherapy and has been successful in treating facial pain.  Manual therapy, both joint mobilization and myofascial release and trigger point therapy start the process of improving joint function and help to relieve pain.  You can learn how to do some techniques on your own to speed the process and get relief when your not at therapy.

Treat the cause and prevent further damage:  Movement patterns in other regions such as the cervical and thoracic spine, shoulder girdles, even lumbar spine and pelvis need to be addressed because of their importance in the postural control of the head, jaw and neck.

  • The head is heavy and must sit on the spine in a way which allows the jaw to work properly
  • The relationship of the head to the neck and spine is altered in nearly all patients with TMJ disorder

Any deviation in the head and spine places an excessive strain on the entire musculoskeletal system, including the muscles and joints of the TMJ.

TMJ relief is the result of improving key relationships within the head and neck and optimizing the function of the jaw as it relates to the rest of the upper body.  Movement and structural integration involves the whole body, the goal being to optimize key relationships and prevent your jaw from being injured again.  Myofascial release and simple, gentle movements reorganize posture, allow flexibility, increase strength and coordination, and in doing so relieve TMJ pain.  Body awareness and movement together integrate mind and body, harnessing the power of our brain plasticity (adaptability) to  help the body function more efficiently.  More efficient use of self creates environments within which chronic pain and injuries can heal.

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