Jaw Pain – The TMJ
TMJ affects 1 in 3 people. 1 in 10 have severe symptoms that may include noise in the jaw joint, clenching of the jaw, tight neck and shoulder muscles, pain at the base of the skull, headaches, and nausea.
The jaw joints, also known as temporomandibular joints (TMJ), are the most complex joints in our body. These joints are essential to all jaw movements such as eating, speaking, facial expressions and most importantly breathing. TMJ can cause an increase in jaw muscle tension with also an increase in neck and shoulder tension. The prolonged muscle tension can be exacerbated by stress, causing inflammation at the origin and insertion points on the muscles. Joint pain, popping noises, neck/shoulder pain, and headaches are common TMJ problems. Many patients with years of headaches or neck pain are suffering from TMJ due to misdiagnosis.
The Science of the TMJ
The Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) is the area directly in front of the ear on either side of the head where the upper jaw and lower jaw meet. Within the TMJ there are moving parts that allow the upper jaw to close on the lower jaw. This joint is a typical sliding “ball and socket,” which has a disc sandwiched between it. The TMJ is used many hundreds of times a day in moving the jaw, biting and chewing, talking, and yawning. It is one of the most frequently used of all the joints in the body.
The temporomandibular joints are complex and are composed of muscles, tendons, and bones. Each component contributes to the smooth operation of the TMJ. When the muscles are relaxed and balanced and both jaw joints open and close comfortably, we are able to talk, chew, or yawn without pain.
We locate the TMJ by putting a finger on the triangular structure in front of the ear. The finger is moved just slightly forward and pressed firmly while opening the jaw. The motion felt is from the TMJ. We can also feel the joint motion if we put a little finger against the inside front part of the ear canal. These maneuvers can cause considerable discomfort to a patient who is experiencing TMJ difficulty, and doctors use them for making the diagnosis.
How is it treated?
TMJ pain can make life very difficult. The inability to eat and chew your food is one of the most important functions needed to survive. We can treat jaw pain without invasive surgery or side effects. Physical therapy is very effective and safe for treatment of jaw pain. It is the best conservative option before moving onto invasive procedures and surgery. Treatments usually take 6 to 8 visits depending on the complexity of problem and patient’s compliance to program.
Wake up without headaches, jaw or ear pain.