So many people associate the term chiropractor with either the spine or the back. While these areas are the most handled by the expert, a chiropractor can also help correct discomforts in other areas. For example, the expert can help to reduce jaw discomfort and pain. One major problem affecting your jaw that can be handled by a chiropractor is the dysfunction of the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). Temporomandibular joint disorder (JMJD) is a very common problem globally. Surprisingly, a majority of people are not aware of the condition until they are diagnosed by a doctor. According to a recent report by the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR), about 75% of individuals in the US show signs of JMJD. Before we go any further, let’s first understand the disorder.
What Exactly is TMJD?
The temporomandibular joint is what connects your lower jaw to the skull (just in front of the ear). A number of facial muscles are attached to it. The joint allows you to chew, yawn, and dialog. You can locate your TMJ easily by just opening your mouth and feeling with your fingers the part that’s in front of the ear. If there is a problem with the TMJ, the resulting effect is a TMJD.
What Causes the Condition?
There are generally different causes of TMJD. The commonest is physical injury. it’s a common cause of acute TMJD. It causes a sharp but brief pain in the temporomandibular joint. A physical injury, in this case, may be in form of:
- A dislocated jaw
- A sprain in the jaw
- A whiplash
Other causes include:
- Grinding of the teeth when you are sleeping. This is because the jaws are overworked unnecessarily.
- Hereditary conditions – Some forms of TMJD can be inherited from a parent.
- A serious infection such as arthritis and fibromyalgia.
- A traumatic experience in the mouth following dental surgery.
How Can You Know If You Are Having TMJD?
The simplest way to do it is to identify the symptoms. TMJD is characterized by the following symptoms:
- Throbbing pain: This the primary symptom for TMJD. The pain is massively felt in the jaw area. There are cases where the ears, the teeth, and the head experience ache. In some limited cases, the pain stretches to the shoulders, the arm, and the back.
- Restricted Mobility: Since the temporomandibular joint is affected, mobility in the area is limited. It can also be locked in a chronic case. Patients with a locked TMJ are not able to either open or close their mouth.
- Vertigo: Vertigo is a condition where you find it difficult to hear things. Since the TMJ runs close to the ear, you can be sure that your hearing will be hampered.
- Difficulty in swallowing: The TMJ muscles that are responsible for facilitating swallowing are rendered ineffective. In a severe case, it becomes impossible to swallow anything at all.
- Bite alterations: Some people feel like they are not chewing anything even if they are struggling to do it. This is because they can’t feel the teeth coming into contact with each other. There are others who can’t chew at all.
- Jaw click: This happens when you open or close your mouth. It’s a possible indicator of a headache problem that originates from the TMJ even if the jaws themselves are not painful.
The Role That Chiropractic Treatments Play in TMJD Correction
Traditionally, TMJD treatments have been the responsibility of the oral surgeons, orthodontists, pain managers, and rheumatologists. Nowadays, chiropractors are joining in. They are taking an active role because TMJD is a neuromusculoskeletal condition and this is their field of specialization. A good number of patients respond well to chiropractic treatments and there are indicators that the technique is one of the most reliable TMJD treatment options. Recently, the NIDCR and the NIH (National Institute of Health) endorsed chiropractic treatments as an alternative to dental surgery when it comes to treating TMJD. Unlike dental surgery, chiropractic care is non-invasive, thus kinder to you.
What Happens During the Diagnosis?
Once you show the discussed TMJD symptoms, the chiropractor will run a conclusive diagnosis to establish that it’s really TMJD. The diagnosis will involve physical exams and x-rays. Physically, the chiropractor will ask you to perform repetitive chewing motions as he or she observes the performance of the jaws. The expert will also look for possible inflammation in the joint. The x-ray is done to just ascertain the extent of the dysfunction. The images will clearly indicate everything that is happening in your mouth.
What Happens During the Treatment?
The objective of chiropractic treatment is to readjust and realign your jaw so that the temporomandibular joint can click back into position. This will help to clear the dysfunction. During the jaw adjustment process, your chiropractor will apply some pressure either on the jaw or on other TMJ related parts such as the skull and the upper spine. In addition to the pressing, the chiropractor will include a soft tissue-based therapy like Active Release Technique (ART) to reinforce the jaw adjustment process. The technique is done to disintegrate scars tissues, abnormal adhesions, and other buildups on your temporomandibular joint. ART can work on its own but it gives the best performance when combined with other chiropractic treatments.
What Is Expected After TMJD Treatment?
It’s important not to overwork or hurt your temporomandibular joint after the treatment. In this case, you should:
- Eat soft foods such as stewed vegetables, soup, and milkshakes. The foods will give you sufficient nutrients and will allow you to stay away from hard foods no matter how nutritious or yummy they are.
- Avoid putting ice on your jaw. This may stir pain and discomfort. You need to let the healing and restoration happen naturally.
- Avoid chewing gums or any other activity that involves repetitive jaw mobility until the joint completely heals.
TMJD is a dysfunction that causes pain and discomfort. In addition, a majority of functions are hampered. Therefore, you have to take the right treatment action to correct it. As seen above, there’s no doubt about the effectiveness of chiropractic care in treating TMJD. The therapy will help to restore the temporomandibular joint to its original purposeful status. Contact Dr. Dee at Healing Hands Chiropractic, located in Murfreesboro, TN today to get help!