What Is TMJ Pain And How Can I Get Rid Of It?

By Dr. Bryen Brown

March 2, 2023

So Mrs. Burns, what brings you in today?…….When someone goes to a chiropractor there is typically an issue with low back pain, sciatica, neck pain, headaches, or just someone wanting…. ever so bad…. not to have a hump on their upper back like dear old Aunt Sally. These ailments are more common to everyone. If you don’t have anything going on yourself, you likely know someone with one of these. They are the product of spinal segments being in the wrong alignment along with muscle and soft tissue issues that equal bad situations. They are a plague and are hindering and terrorizing people all over the world

But today’s topic of discussion is about a joint that most people don’t know about unless you are the unlucky one that is experiencing the discomfort of it. There’s another joint that is plaguing people everyday. Could you imagine having pain or worse, not being able to move your jaw because it’s stuck and out of alignment. Having painful muscle spasms and tension in the muscles that control the opening and closing of the mouth.

Some are lucky enough not to have pain from the joint but just have to deal with the clicking and shifting of the jaw when they open their mouth to talk, chew, or brush their teeth — or anything that requires them to open their mouth. We want you to be able to do everything you want to do, pain-free. That includes activities that involve your jaw.

tmj pain

What is the TMJ?

The jaw joint is called the Temporomandibular Joint or TMJ. The TMJ is the connection between the temporal bone and the upper side of the head and the condyles of mandibular (lower jaw) bone which moves through a hinge type joint. The main muscles that control the jaw are the temporalis muscles, the massatars and the lateral pterygoids to name the most important but not all. The mandibular condyle fits into a cavity in temporalis bone cushioned by a disc and connective tissue. There are 2 TMJs, one on each side of the head.

Just like all other joints, they can have dysfunction and create problems called Temporomandibular Disorders or TMDs. As stated by the National Institute of Health (NIH) within the TMDs are 30 conditions that cause pain and dysfunction. They also mention that they occur twice as common in women than men and the most common ages are 35 through 44 years of age. 

What Leads To TMJ Pain?

When you think of the causes of TMDs the first thing I think about is someone getting a hard hit to the jaw from a boxing match or bar fight. Yes, these things cause dysfunction to the TMJ but in most cases TMDs have unknown causes. Besides trauma to the jaw, other common causes of TMJ are spinal misalignments or subluxations of the upper neck, tension and spasms in the muscles of the jaw, misaligned teeth, grinding of the teeth, and stress.

Symptoms include, but are not limited to: 

  • Pain on the side of the face (in front of the ear where the joint hinges)
  • Pain with chewing and opening the mouth
  • “Clicking or popping” sound when opening and closing the mouth
  • Locking of the lower jaw in an open or closed position
  • Limited movement of the jaw
  • Pain that spreads through the face
  • In more advanced cases, dizziness, headaches, and ringing in the ears
  • Visible deviation of the jaw when opening and closing the mouth
  • Muscles on the side on the face that are painful to the touch

Treatment of the TMJ can be difficult to find as many healthcare providers don’t treat it. Chiropractic care is a great option and considered the go to for TMJ sufferers. Chiropractors specialize in treating conditions of the musculoskeletal system which includes the nerves, joints, and muscles of the body. When treating TMJ, there are many approaches a chiropractor will take to help reduce the symptoms associated with TMJ dysfunction and pain. 

How Do We Treat TMJ Problems?

Here at CORE Chiropractic we have multiple treatments to address TMD. The first thing that needs to be done is an exam to figure out what is causing the TMJ dysfunction. An examination is performed to test the upper spine to look for subluxation that can directly affect the jaw. When looking at the anatomy of the human spine, the neck directly affects the structures of the face and head, specifically the TMJ.  If subluxations are found, a chiropractic adjustment is done to restore function in the area. When the spinal joint motion is restored, the joints in the jaw are able to move freely. 

Muscles are examined in the front, sides, and back of the neck, as well as, muscles on the upper side of the head and along the side of the jaw to reveal any spasms or knots. Other muscles located in the mouth on the sides of the jaw can also be examined to search for any tautness or dysfunction. Soft tissue work on the different muscles are performed to remove muscle spasms, knots, or tension. When the muscles are able to contract, shorten and lengthen without restriction, the jaw is able to move as normal. 

When the restriction is in the temporomandibular joint itself, a different chiropractic adjustment is performed to the TMJ on the side that it is restricted. Using a technique called palpation, chiropractors are able to feel which joint is moving normally and which has restricted motion. Adjustments can be done manually with the hands or with adjusting instruments. 

PEMF is a therapy that helps the body heal faster. The therapy will be targeted to the TMJ to focus the healing on the joint and muscles of the jaw. It will also help reduce the inflammation and heal the soft tissue in the capsule where the bones connect and where the disc is located.

What Else Can You Do To Help TMJ Pain At Home?

The lifestyle changes should also be considered when working to reduce flare-ups of TMDs and to strengthen the TMJ. Excessive chewing such as when chewing gum is discouraged. Exercises to focus on the muscles around the neck and in the face can be done to keep the muscles and soft tissue moving without restrictions. TMJ sufferers can also go to the dentist to get mouth guards for conditions like misaligned teeth and teeth grinding. Meditation and exercise will help with stress related TMJ symptoms. 

Contact your us as soon as possible and quit suffering while biting into your favorite food. Laugh and sing at your heart’s desire without your jaw locking and clicking. Chiropractic care can help you have the best time of your life with worrying about your jaw. 

Dr. Bryen Brown

About the author

Dr. Bryen Brown is married to Dawn and has one son. He grew up in Bogalusa, LA and received his Bachelor of Science Degree in Biology from Grambling State University in 2008. He then attended and graduated from Texas Chiropractic College in 2012. Click Here To Read Full Bio

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