TMJ & Jaw Pain: Is Chiropractic Care the Best Solution?

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Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) dysfunction, commonly known as TMJ or TMD, is a condition that affects the joint connecting the jaw to the skull. Though it may seem like a small and simple part of the body, the temporomandibular joint is, in reality, a complex system that enables vital actions like talking, swallowing, and chewing. When inflamed or damaged, it can cause significant discomfort, inhibiting your ability to carry out day-to-day activities. Did you know that TMJ disorders are quite prevalent in Australia, with symptoms affecting as many as 60-70% of the adult population? This prevalence underscores the importance of addressing TMD and jaw pain in general. As chiropractors, we regularly hear from new patients about their struggles living with TMD. It can be incredibly challenging, especially because the cause of your suffering isn’t immediately apparent to other people. However, it’s important to remember that you don’t have to suffer in silence. Nor do you have to resort to invasive treatments or rely on painkillers to manage your symptoms. There are natural, non-invasive methods available that can provide relief. The best way to develop a plan of action that will work for you is to start by expanding your understanding of the condition and its symptoms. From here, you can assess how it impacts your quality of life and then empower yourself to seek the right research-backed treatments to alleviate your symptoms. In the following sections, we cover all these details and more, discussing the symptoms of TMD and providing a detailed overview of its causes, its impact on your life, and the best treatment options. 

Symptoms of TMJ Disorder

Though the primary symptom is pain in the jaw and face, TMD can cause a wide range of other issues. Chronic TMJ disorder can lead to a variety of symptoms that significantly impact a person’s quality of life. Here are some possible symptoms of TMJ disorder:
  • Pain or tenderness in the jaw: This is the most common symptom and can be exacerbated when eating or speaking.
  • Pain in one or both temporomandibular joints: This pain can be persistent and may spread throughout the face, jaw, or neck.
  • Aching pain around the ear: This can sometimes be mistaken for an ear infection.
  • Difficulty or discomfort while chewing: This can make eating certain foods difficult.
  • Locking of the joint: This can make it difficult to open or close your mouth.
  • Headaches: Especially in the temples, under the eyes, and at the sides of the lower jaw.
  • Neck or shoulder pain: This can be due to the strain on the surrounding muscles.
  • Jaw clicking or popping: This can occur when opening the mouth or chewing.
  • Trouble chewing: This can make eating certain foods difficult.
  • Dizziness: This can affect balance and coordination.
  • Snoring: This can disrupt sleep and lead to other health issues.
  • Difficulty sleeping: This can lead to fatigue and other health issues.
  • Obstructive sleep apnea: This is a serious condition where breathing stops and starts during sleep.
  • Tinnitus (ringing in ears): This can be persistent and bothersome.
  • Limited or painful jaw opening: This can make it difficult to eat or speak.
  • Fractured or worn teeth: This can occur due to grinding or clenching the teeth.
If you’ve been experiencing any of these symptoms, seeking medical attention is essential to get a proper diagnosis and treatment plan. Remember, early intervention from a TMJ specialist can help prevent further complications and improve your quality of life.

What Causes TMJ Dysfunction?

TMJ disorders can arise from several different root causes, including: 
  • An injury to your jaw, head or neck
  • Orthodontic treatment
  • Jaw clenching and teeth grinding (often linked to stress and anxiety)
  • Dental issues (e.g. new fillings or dentures causing an uneven bite)
  • Wear and tear of the joint 
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Gout

How Does TMJ Impact Your Quality of Life?

TMJ disorders can have a surprisingly profound influence on your overall body balance and wellness. Untreated TMJ pain can affect your sleep directly (due to the pain) and indirectly (by limiting the amount of oxygen you breathe at night). It can also negatively impact your mood, eating habits, and even the way you sit and walk. While TMJ is not a life-threatening disorder, if left untreated, its symptoms can drag down your quality of life over time. Along with difficulties in eating, speaking, and sleeping, the constant pain can lead to emotional distress that can develop into or exacerbate anxiety and depression. Furthermore, patients with combined muscle-joint pain have reported higher levels of emotional disturbance and significantly poorer sleep quality. In addition to the physical and psychological symptoms, TMJ disorders can have a social impact. The pain and discomfort can make engaging in social activities difficult, leading to feelings of isolation and decreased enjoyment of life. All told, the impact can be slow-moving but significant, so it’s crucial to seek help from a qualified TMJ specialist. 

TMJ Treatment Options

Treatment options for TMJ disorder may include medications such as anti-inflammatory drugs, muscle relaxants, antidepressants, and nerve pain medications. Alternatively, injections, therapy, surgery, or physical therapy are all options you can consider. In severe cases, your healthcare professionals may recommend arthrocentesis, TMJ arthroscopy, or modified condylotomy procedures.

Can a Chiropractor treat TMJ?

Studies demonstrate that chiropractic care can be an effective, safe, and natural solution for TMJ and jaw pain. Chiropractic treatment for TMJ aims to reduce pain and restore joint function and symmetry. TMJ adjustments involve a series of specific muscle releases, mobilisations, and stretching combined with at-home jaw exercises.  The best chiropractors specialising in TMJ provide effective treatments with clear and easy-to-follow guidance, allowing you to take your healing into your own hands. This is crucial in recovering from any disorder – you play just as significant a role as your health providers in getting you better. 

The Benefits of Chiropractic Care for TMJ

A skilled TMJ chiropractor can help reduce the discomfort of TMD and improve joint function. They can perform tests to check your vertebral alignment and, if needed, provide adjustments to correct misalignments that may be causing or worsening TMJ symptoms.  Chiropractic TMJ adjustments can alleviate muscle tension around the TMJ, which may provide relief to many patients. Realigning the jaw joint can enhance its function, making daily activities like talking, yawning, and chewing much easier. This can deliver profound and long-lasting improvements in your quality of life.

Relieving the Pain of TMJ

While various treatment options are available for TMJ and jaw pain, chiropractic care stands out as a safe, effective, and natural solution. It alleviates the pain and discomfort associated with TMJ and improves the functionality of the jaw, enhancing the quality of life of those affected by this condition. However, it’s essential to consult with a healthcare professional to determine the most suitable treatment option for your specific needs. So, if you need a TMJ chiropractor to guide you towards relief, we’re just a phone call away. Call (03) 9118-0619, or if you’d prefer, use our online booking system to schedule your appointment online. You can overcome your TMD and reclaim your vitality and well-being with the correct approach and a dedicated team of health professionals. Remember, you never have to suffer in silence. We’re here to help.

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