Jaw pain can have a significant impact on daily life. Imagine dealing with pain every time you wanted to talk, chew or yawn. Very annoying. This condition is often mistakenly referred to as ‘TMJ’. Everyone has a TMJ – it’s your temporomandibular joint and we have one on both sides. More accurately, the condition is called TMD – Temporomandibular Dysfunction.
We have one TMJ on each side of our jaw. The joint connects our temporal bone (side of our skull) to our mandible (our jaw bone). There is a small cartilaginous disc that separates these two bones and helps the jaw move smoothly. When we open our mouth, the joint both rotates and glides to perform the required motion. For a tiny joint, it is actually quite complex! With all these moving parts, there are multiple sources of pain arising from this joint. There are three potential sources of pain – myofascial pain, joint/disc displacement or arthritis.
The most common cause of jaw pain is myofascial pain (pain arising from tight muscles that attach in and around the joint). One of the muscles even attaches on the disc that allows the jaw to move effectively, so if a tight muscle is pulling on the disc it can cause major problems in how that joint functions! If these muscles are tight, pain can be felt around the jaw, into the temple or even over the eyebrow. This referred pain can often be mistaken as a headache, when really the pain is originating from the jaw! Another source of jaw pain is if the disc is displaced. Often this creates a locked jaw (in the open or closed position). Lastly, and least commonly, the TMJ can become arthritic and cause pain.
So now you may be asking yourself, ‘how does someone develop TMD?’ The answer to this question is not always simple. Some possible reasons for developing TMD include stress-related clenching for the jaw, grinding your teeth at night, a direct trauma to the face/jaw, ill-fitting dentures or even the biting of harder items (like nervously chewing on the end of a pen/pencil). Some signs and symptoms of TMD include clicking/popping of the jaw when it opens or closes, locked jaw (in the open or closed position), pain in the jaw/temple area. TMD can even cause tooth pain!
So now onto the important part – what can we do to fix it? There are some self-care solutions to help ease jaw pain at home. Eating softer foods, reducing stress and applying ice packs can help manage some of the pain. Chiropractors are well trained to assess and treat TMJ related pain. After a thorough assessment to determine the source of the pain our chiropractors can use a combination of muscle release, joint manipulation/mobilization and IFC to help relieve the pain. Chiropractors can also apply intra-oral muscle releases to help reduce the muscle tension that often contributes to this kind of pain! Acupuncture can assist in speeding up recovery and helping to release tight muscles. We will also provide you with at home stretches and exercises to help make your recovery as speedy as possible.
We have had great success in treating this condition at our clinic – so if you are experiencing jaw pain: