The temporomandibular joint and muscle disorders (TMD) refers to a collection of conditions that cause discomfort, pain, and dysfunction in the jaw joint and the muscles surrounding it. TMD is commonly momentary or cyclic, and non-life threatening. In most cases, the pain goes away on its own after a while. However, some people experience chronic or persistent TMJ pain.
More studies are in the works about TMD to discover the exact reason why it occurs and how to alleviate its pain and symptoms. Since surgeries have mixed results, it is wise not to undergo any procedure or surgery that will permanently change your jaw or bite. There is a natural and safe treatment that can give long-lasting relief to TMJ disorders, and we will discuss about it later in this article.
What Is the Temporomandibular Joint?
Also known as the TMJ, this joint attaches the lower jaw (mandible) to the temporal bone of the skull. You have two TMJ’s, and they are located in front of your ears. Unlike other joints of the body, they are unique as they are hinge and gliding joints, meaning they can hinge open and close, and glide from side to side.
These joints are flexible and enable us to talk, chew, and yawn. The jaw muscles control their position and movement. Due to the joint’s uniqueness and flexibility, and people’s overuse of the TMJ, it is challenging to care for TMD.
Conditions Associated with TMD
Disorders of the jaw and chewing muscles vary for every person experiencing them. TMD falls into three types, depending on the origin of the problem.
- Myofascial pain: Discomfort or pain in the muscles that control jaw movement
- Internal derangement of the joint: Disc displacement, dislocation of the jaw, or injury to the condyle
- Arthritis: Inflammatory or degenerative joint disorders that can negatively affect the temporomandibular joint
Someone can experience more than one of these conditions at once, and TMD may also co-exist with other disorders, including chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, and sleep disorders. Interestingly, these conditions share some similar symptoms, suggesting they may be linked to one underlying problem.
Rheumatic diseases like arthritis can afflict the temporomandibular joint as a secondary condition. It can result in stiffness, inflammation, and pain in the joints, muscles, and bones. The lining tissues of the joints can be affected in TMD and arthritis, too.
Joint and muscle degeneration can worsen over time. Most cases of TMD are mild, and the symptoms often heal on their own or disappear within a week or a month. Others continue to persist with no end in sight.
While people who suffer from TMD often experience pain in the jaw joint when chewing, other symptoms can also be present:
- Stiffness in the jaw muscles
- Radiating pain in the jaw, face, or neck
- Limited movement or locking of the jaw
- Clicking, grating, or popping in the jaw when opening or closing the mouth
- A change in how the upper and lower teeth fit together
Other symptoms connected to TMD include the following:
- Neck pain
- Facial pain
- Bruxism, or grinding of the teeth
Can TMJ Disorder Cause Neck Pain?
Yes, problems in the TMJ can result in neck pain. The jaw joints are near the upper cervical spine (upper neck), and this explains why neck pain is one symptom of TMD. The nerves of the upper neck control our jaw movements and sensations.
Easy Steps to Improve TMD
Not all jaw pain improves on its own. It may need self-care to go away. Do not let the condition get worse before you take action. To keep the pain of TMD under control, here are some simple steps you can do:
- Apply ice packs or a heat compress
- Eat soft foods to avoid stressing the jaw
- Do not open your jaw too wide
- Avoid overusing the jaw unnecessarily, like when chewing gum
- Practice relaxation and stress management techniques
- Perform gentle jaw stretches and exercises
Drug-Free, Non-Surgical Treatment for TMD
If TMD has been a source of misery in your life, don’t prolong your agony. Consult a professional. Here at Trillium Spinal Care in Rochester, Minnesota, we help our TMD patients recover from TMD by concentrating on the bones of the upper cervical spine, specifically the C1 vertebra. It can be causing your jaw pain if it has misaligned from its correct position. This vertebra in your upper cervical spine can be pulling the muscles of the face and neck to compensate for it’s misalignment. This can result in the painful symptoms of TMD.
If you finally decide to get the help of a chiropractor for TMJ disorder in Rochester, our clinic is very happy to assist with your specific needs. We use an extremely accurate but gentle method that encourages the bones to return into position without strong force. Once adjusted and the bones realign, the muscles and tissues can start to repair themselves. After receiving our upper cervical chiropractic care, many of our patients report a huge improvement in their TMD symptoms.