Lately we’ve been seeing quite a few cases of TMJ at the Golden Chiropractic office.
One particular patient came in with acute pain in her ear and clicking in her jaw. This started after several dental appointments to repair a broken tooth with a crown. She returned to her dentist who said “Give it time, and if it’s not better in two weeks, I’ll refer you to an oral surgeon.” The patient was terrified that she may need surgery! She just wants relief, FAST. So she came to Golden Chiropractic to see how she could possibly find relief without surgery.
Temporomandibular joint and muscle disorders, commonly called “TMJ,” cause not only aches and pains in your jaw, they can also cause a lot of frustration, anger, irritation, and sadness.
At Golden Chiropractic, it’s our job to figure out if we can help when others haven’t been able to. Sometimes, chiropractic care is the solution for TMJ. It helps to understand the symptoms and the causes in order to identify the best treatment.
What Are TMJ Symptoms?
The symptoms of TMJ can vary:
- Pain or tenderness in the jaw
- Pain in one or both of the temporomandibular joints
- Aching pain in and around the ear
- Difficulty chewing or pain while chewing
- Aching facial pain
- Locking of the joint
- Difficulty opening or closing the mouth
- Clicking sound or grating sensation with opening and closing the jaw
- Neck aches
- Hearing problems
- Upper shoulder pain
- Ringing in the ears
Painful TMJ disorders can occur if:
- There is stress leading to clenching of the jaw or excessive chewing
- The disk erodes or moves out of its proper alignment
- The joint’s cartilage is damaged by arthritis
- The joint is damaged by a blow or other impact
How Does Chiropractic Help with TMJ?
Typically during your chiropractic exam, I will evaluate the temporomandibular gait, and assess for clicking and asymmetries in opening and closing your jaw. I will assess for muscular hypertonicity and trigger points in the muscles that open and close the jaw.
Chiropractic care can help if the problem stems from more of a muscular disorder, often stress-related , and caused by excessive clenching or grinding of the teeth. The jaw muscles go into spasm, causing pain and limited function with difficulty eating.
Treatment includes chiropractic adjustments to the cervical spine (neck), myofascial release of the dysfunctional muscles, which might include massage to the internal and external pterygoids and the masseter .
What Can I Do at Home to Help with My TMJ?
Home treatment for TMJ can include home exercise recommendations, as well as recommendations for eating soft foods. Sometimes taking over the counter NSAIDS to reduce inflammation and swelling will help. Ice or heat therapy may also be recommended.
Other Self-Care Tips for TMJ:
- Sleep on your side, protecting your shoulder and neck
- Relax your facial muscles, keeping teeth apart
- Jaw exercises increase mobility and healing
- Soft diet, blending foods to allow the jaw to rest
- Use ice packs to decrease inflammation and promote healing
- A warm water bottle or warm moist towel can improve function and reduce pain
- Wear a splint or night guard to prevent the upper and lower teeth from grinding together
How to Eat When You’ve Got TMJ
- Eat soft foods. Add yogurt, mashed potatoes, cottage cheese, soup, scrambled eggs, fish, cooked fruits and vegetables, beans, and grains to your menu
- Cut foods into small pieces so you chew less. Skip hard, crunchy foods (like pretzels and raw carrots), chewy foods (like caramels and taffy), and thick or large bites that require you to open wide
- Avoid chewing gum!