If you feel pain when chewing, you might have temporomandibular disorder (TMD), a condition affecting the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) and the surrounding facial muscles. TMD has a variety of causes for which many treatments are available, so there’s no reason to simply live with the pain.
TMD is a range of conditions, including TMJ Dysfunction, which involves pain, discomfort, and compromised motion of the jaw. Symptoms of TMJ Dysfunction include pain, difficulty chewing, and clicking and locking of the jaw.
Treatments for TMD vary, but could involve visits to your chiropractor. With physical manipulation of your jaw joint and muscles, a chiropractor might be able to help ease your TMD pain, particularly if the pain has moved into your neck and shoulders.
What Is Temporomandibular Disorder (TMD)?
TMD is a general term that covers several conditions, including:
- TMJ Dysfunction
- Pain in the face, particularly around the jaw
- Issues with muscles that affect the joint’s movement
TMD typically has symptoms such as pain in the face or jaw, locking or clicking of the jaw, tenderness in the jaw muscles, difficulty chewing, headaches, and muscle spasms. It may also affect other areas of the body, including the neck and shoulder, where pain may be felt.
The TMJ can be affected by a number of factors, including hormones, genetics, and behavior. Causes of TMD can include:
- Jaw injury
- Overuse, such as from excessively chewing gum or grinding your teeth during sleep
- Improper alignment
- Deterioration due to an autoimmune disease like arthritis
- Tension or stress, which may result in grinding or clenching
- Inflammation or infection
However, sometimes the cause is unknown. TMD may be treated using a variety of approaches.
How Does The TMJ Function?
If you’re experiencing clicking, pain, or motion issues with your jaw, you’re not alone. According to the National Institute of Craniofacial Research (NICR), TMJ dysfunctions affect over ten million people.
It’s important to understand how the TMJ works as a joint in the body. It offers flexibility unlike many other joints, allowing the jaw to move both up and down and side to side.The joint connects the mandible (which is the lower jaw) to the temporal bones on the side of your head. The TMJ offers a range of motion that allows you to talk, chew, and yawn.
Within the joint socket is a cartilage disc, which cushions the bones, absorbs all the pressure, and allows for the smooth movement you feel as you open and close your mouth.
How Do You Fix TMD?
You have a myriad of options when it comes to TMD issues. Your dentist can help you decide which one/ones are best for you.
- Try eating soft foods
- Apply heat and ice alternately
- Avoid wide or extreme jaw movements
- Follow techniques for stress reduction
- Utilize muscle stretching and relaxing exercises
- Choose a diet of foods that help relieve inflammation
- Use a splint or guard that reduces clenching and grinding
- See a chiropractor
In extreme cases, injections or surgery may be required. The processes may involve injecting medications directly into the tissues of painful muscle areas to relieve the discomfort. In cases where the bone itself is damaged, further steps may be needed. However, in most instances, the above actions can be used to relieve pain and prevent clicking or motion problems and surgery isn’t necessary.
How Can A Chiropractor Help With TMD?
A licensed chiropractor offers an array of services that can be beneficial for various conditions. Your chiropractor adjusts bones, joints, and muscles to reduce pain or improve overall function. A chiropractor who works with the TMJ can make specific adjustments which can ease TMD symptoms and restore a healthy jaw.
Chiropractic care involves the manipulation of the jaw so that it can move more freely without catching, clicking, or freezing up. The process can relieve muscle tension surrounding the jaw and down into the neck and shoulders.
A chiropractor may also be able to provide you with exercises and stretches to use at home and help loosen and relax the jaw muscles. You may also be provided with other tips and helpful advice for your TMD.
In most cases, you will need to visit your chiropractor more than once in order to fully improve any TMD symptoms you are experiencing. Regular visits may be required to manage your condition.