Healing Hands

Temporomandibular joint Disorder

TMJ Disorders

What is TMJD and how can i treat it?

What is TMJ?

TMJ stands for Temporomandibular joint and this particular joint operates as a two-joint mechanism in one joint and allows our lower jawbone to rotate and slide. Anatomically, there is one joint (TMJ) on each side of our jaw that allows for movement when we talk, chew, and/or yawn.

Possible Causes of Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJD)

TMJD a.k.a TMD can cause discomfort and pain in the joint area, ligaments and affect the muscles that surround, stabilise and move the jaw. The cause for TMJD is often difficult to determine due to the possible combination of factors such as, but not limited to:

 

  • Genetics
  • Arthritis
  • Overuse of muscles which can occur during continuous & excessive chewing on one side habitually, habit of clenching the jaw etc… 
  • Acute Trauma
  • Stress
  • Clenching/Teeth grinding (Bruxism)
  • Injury 
  • Depression – 
  • Improper bite (over/under bite)
  • Premature Wear & Tear (arthritis)

 

The actual cause however, can be due to the strain on our jaw. The joint and muscle groups that allow for movement can strain over time through excessive use by causing the muscles to compensate, tighten and strain over time due to one or a combination of the causes noted above. The possible cause of TMJD is often also over a period of time where the combination of stress, excessive clenching, chewing and/or injury will lead to the deterioration of the jaws joint movement I.e misalignment  causing pain, discomfort and/or headaches. 

Girl with headache and migraine

What are the symptoms of TMJD

(Temporomandibular Joint Disorder)

Symptoms of Temporomandibular joint Disorder can include:

  • Pain, including tenderness in the jaw (facial muscle pain). Pain and tenderness may be present whether the TMJ is moving or not.
  • Earaches
  • Tinnitus or ringing in the ears
  • History of pain in the neck and shoulders
  • Stiffness in the muscle of the jaw 
  • Limited movement for the jaw 
  • Headaches 
  • Uneven bite and/or jaw movement
  • Clicking or popping sensation in the TMJ
  • Comorbidities can include Depression (TMJD can affect one’s mood and emotions long term)
  • Swelling (inflammation) on one or both side of the face due to joint & muscle dysfunction and misalignments. 

Symptoms may vary and can manifest on one side of the face or both. It’s vital for anyone experiencing TMJD to get check due to its varied and myriad of causes and symptoms that affect one’s well-being. 

How is Temporomandibular Joint Disorder diagnosed?

TMJD is diagnosed based on the patient’s symptoms. Often the doctor will ask specific health questions to learn more and get to know the patient’s symptoms, how long they’ve had them, how is it affecting their life, educate the patient on how the TMJ works and work with the patient if specific habits are contributing to their TMJD.

  1. A complete and specific physical examination will be done to determine if the patient has TMJD. The examination includes feeling the TMJ, the muscles, range of movements to determine if the TMJ is moving properly.

     

  2. The doctor will press around the TMJ and surrounding muscles to locate any tenderness, stiffness, pain or discomfort. Specific questions to TMJD can include;

  • Do you usually clench your teeth?
  • Do you chew gum often?
  • Any recent stressful events?
  • Recent dental procedures that may cause the pain?

How do I know if I have TMJD?

  1. It’s always prudent and best to get yourself checked by a professional that you can trust and who can help you transparently if you truly have TMJD. 

  2. TMJD has a myriad of causes and symptoms, getting to the root cause of your concerns of possibly having TMJD can alleviate your fears and stress. 

Where can I go to treat TMJD?

Photo by Ozkan Guner on Unsplash

1. Seek help from your dentist

TMJD can be caused by our excessive use of our chewing muscles and TMJ. One way it can lead to overuse is when a toothache arises and we naturally avoid the pain and chew on the other side causing excessive use of 1 side of the joint and muscle.

Photo by Marios Kanellos on Unsplash

2. Stop Eating

Yes, you heard us right, because one of the common causes of TMJ is due to excessive chewing. People who eat and snack often may cause wear and tear on the TMJ which leads to strain on the muscles and joints.

3. Surgery

Although prevention is always best and surgery will often be the last resort for patients who possibly have serious TMJD.  It’s important to note that if the condition in the TMJ area is consistent, with intense pain and tenderness while opening or closing your mouth it’s always wise to get a referral to a specialist doctor to check for any underlying causes of the pain in the TMJ.

Girl Getting Chiropractic Treatment or Chiropractic Adjustment

4. Chiropractic

Chiropractic treatment for TMJD can help to bring relief from the pain by restoring the motion back to the TMJ and bring balance back to the muscles that are compensating around the joint. Chiropractic treatment will also restore motion back to the surrounding structures that may be contributing to the TMJD like the neck or cervical spine. Chiropractic can alleviate the joint dysfunction leading to pain and imbalance by bringing back the normal mechanics of the TMJ to allow for proper healing to start naturally.

5. Home Remedies

    1. Eat Soft Food : Eating soft food like porridge, oats, yoghurt is helpful for the TMJ as they don’t require much jaw muscles or require much pressure from the jaw to chew.

    2. Cold pack on the TMJ: Massage cold pack on joint pain area for 10-minutes rests for one hour in between application.
       
    3. Avoid extreme joint movements: Avoid opening your mouth too wide while eating, drinking, speaking, yawning or yelling.

    4. Reduce stress – Meditating/exercising for at least 30-minutes a day is a good way to reduce stress. Be mindful and bring awareness to potential habits that’s contributing to the possible TMJD.

    5. Do Jaw Exercises – Specific jaw exercises can help strengthen the muscles around the TMJ which can possibly help to reduce the chances of TMJD. Practice awareness and mindfulness during specific exercises that target the TMJ, be aware if the exercise is causing any symptoms of lightheadedness, strain, or more pain.
      Practicing relaxation and stress-reduction techniques (mindfulness & awareness). 

Types of Jaw Exercises You can do for TMJ Disorder

Remember to keep your head straight during this stretch. You should feel your upper trap muscle stretch 

Neck Stretches

To do this stretches, it is advised to sit on a chair with no handles.

Step 1: Place right hand below the chair and hold on to edge.

Step 2: Place other hand on your head 

Step 3: Gently pull your head to the opposite side to your left side

Step 4: Hold stretch for 30-seconds and repeat for 5 times.

Step 5: Repeat stretch on other side.

Remember to keep your head straight during this stretch.

Neck Turn

To do this stretches, it is advised to sit on a chair with no handles.

Step 1: Place both hand below the chair and hold on to the edges.

Step 2: Slowly turn towards your left and hold position for 5-seconds

Step 3: Slowly turn to your right and hold position for 5-seconds

Step 4: Repeat step when looking upwards and down.

Be gentle when massaging your TMJ to avoid causing discomfort

Jaw Massage

Use 2 fingers for this facial massage

Step 1: Place 2 fingers on the cheeks slightly below your jaw bone

Step 2: Push 2 fingers in and push upwards (it will be like forcing yourself to smile)

Step 3: Repeat the massage 10 times and rest

Do jaw massage alternate to the temple massage if you feel discomfort.

 

Be gentle when massaging your temple to avoid causing discomfort

Temple Massage

Use 2 fingers for this temple massage

Step 1: Place 2 fingers on your temple

Step 2: Rotate fingers forward

Step 3: Repeat the massage 10 times and rest

 

 

How can I decrease the risk for TMJ disorder?

In some instances, the symptoms of TMJD are caused by things out of our control, like as the way our normal bite fits together. However, in some cases, there are ways to reduce the risk of TMJD for instance:

Practicing good posture (bad posture often affects our head, neck, and shoulder muscles, tendons, and ligaments which are indirectly connected & contribute to the cause of TMJD)

Wearing a night guard, especially if you clench or grind your teeth.

Practicing relaxation and stress-reduction techniques (mindfulness & awareness). 

When should I see a doctor?

If you feel extreme discomfort, persistent pain, or tenderness in your jaw, or you are unable to open or close your jaw. You should consult a doctor to discuss about the possible treatments that can be done to solve your problem.

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