Temporomandibular Joint Headaches (TMJ)
The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is a hinge joint. It only opens and closes, like a door hinge. The joint is the connecting point of the lower jaw to the skull. A faulty jaw will cause mechanical jaw pain that can include headaches. Altered mechanics of the joint can cause chewing problems that may trigger other symptoms or a condition known as “temporomandibular joint disorder” or TMD.
What Makes Up the TMJ?
The TMJ is made up of jaw bone or mandible, temporal bone with a small disc or cushion in the joint. The disc is much like the tissue that makes up the disc in your spine. Many different muscles move the jaw, they work at opening and closing the mouth for chewing and talking.
What are Typical Symptoms of TMD?
Jaw pain can be related not only to the joint, but also the muscles that are needed for the jaw to function. Trauma, arthritis, grinding the teeth, and stress are some of the most common causes. Trauma can include being struck in the jaw, sudden movement of the jaw flying open in a motor vehicle crash and frequently chewing gum for prolonged periods of time. Studies have shown that poor posture in the neck and upper back muscles may also contribute to dysfunction of the jaw muscles. It seems to affect women more than men. The symptoms of TMD include the following:
- Pain localized over the side of the head at the TMJ joint.
- Headaches are a common feature. This could also include upper neck pain that may contribute to biomechanical headaches, tension headaches and even migraines.
- Pain in the ear or a sensation of an “earache.”
- Pain upon opening and closing the mouth and hearing a “clicking sound” in the jaw.
- Difficulty chewing with pain centering in the TMJ. The pain can be on both sides or just one.
- Pressing or compressing the muscles around the joint, just in front of the joint or above the joint may produce increased tenderness.
- Studies report some people feel they can’t completely close their jaw when resting as it seems “locked open”.
Chiropractic Care for TMD
Chiropractic care can be very helpful for some cases of TMD. When the doctor is evaluating your cervical spine for headaches, the jaw and its functioning should also be evaluated.
- Office Treatment – Treatment will be directed to the muscles of the head and jaw to try and improve muscular balance. This can include treatment of myofascial trigger points within these muscles. Soft tissue massage and passive mobilization to the joint can be undertaken. Care and treatment to the cervical spine, upper back joint function and muscle balance may be necessary.
- Homecare – Initially, the use of ice should be used over the injured joint to help control pain and swelling. During the acute phase, soft foods are preferable to minimize chewing. Try to stifle yawning. Avoid chewing gum or opening your mouth wide to take a bite such as from an apple. Relaxation techniques and possible counseling may be needed for anxiety and stress. Follow your doctor’s advice for office and home care. Gentle exercises can be helpful.
- Braces or Splints – Wearing a night brace or splint in cases resistant to conservative management would be a next step. The doctors at Coon Rapids Chiropractic office work with many different dentists.
- Surgery – Unfortunately, there are cases that are resistant to conservative management that may need surgical repair. It should be the last resort.
It is not uncommon in the chiropractic office to see a patient with headaches who also is having problems with the TMJ. Contact doctors at Coon Rapids Chiropractic Office for evaluation of your jaw to see if this treatment could possibly be effective. The doctors have worked with dentists in the area for the care and treatment of TMJ.