Dental Guides

Owatonna Chiropractor Explains TMJ and How Chiropractic Adjustments Can Help

Many of us have had extensive dental work performed. I can remember needing to sit still with my jaw wide open for what seemed like hours at a time while getting necessary dental work done as a boy. A painful condition can develop in the jaw called TMJ, also known as temporomandibular joint disorder. TMJ can be caused by prolonged opening of the mouth, direct impact to the jaw and face, or repetitive motion abnormalities from chewing.

A common form of treatment for TMJ is to have a specially designed mouthguard in place while sleeping. The pain can also be managed with medication and in more severe cases surgery. Still, many people choose to pursue a less invasive form of treatment for their jaw pain that does not involve drugs or surgery. Chiropractic care is one such natural approach that can help people suffering with TMJ.

The temporomandibular joint is where the jaw meets the skull. It is innervated by nerves that arise from the neck, and is controlled by multiple muscles which are involved in chewing, talking, singing, etc. The joint has a ligamentous capsule that normally keeps the jaw and skull in proper alignment and moving correctly. Derangement of the capsule can cause the jaw to not track properly when it is being opened and closed. Sometimes the ligament can migrate forward and at other times it can move backward.

How the ligament is positioned will determine what type of adjustment is given. The chiropractor will start the assessment by having you slowly open your mouth fully. The doctor will observe which side your jaw deviates towards. This is typically the side where the ligamentous capsule has migrated forward. A corrective adjustment can then be applied which gently encourages the TMJ to assume its normal alignment by migrating the ligament tissue back to its proper location.

The jaw will also sometimes misalign laterally which is denoted as an exterior misalignment. This misalignment must be corrected for the overall adjustment to hold properly. Additionally, misalignments of the upper bone in the neck called the atlas often accompanies misalignments of the jaw. The way the atlas misaligns is to the side, or laterally, on the side with the jaw issue most often. Resolving the misalignment of the atlas will help improve the overall mechanics of the jaw and neck mechanism, so that greater mobility is achieved with less nerve pressure.

The muscles which interact with the jaw also play a role in the clinical management of TMJ. Specifically, the medial and lateral pterygoid muscles are open chronically spasmed and shortened in individuals suffering from temporomandibular joint disorders. The solution is simply to perform myofascial release therapy on these muscles to encourage them to release tension and elongate over time. The procedure can be quite painful. Patients will often tear up when the muscles are being stripped, but the relief which is experienced afterward makes the momentary discomfort worth it.

There are exercises which can be performed at home which involve relaxing the muscles of the face and mouth. The muscles of mastication often become tight and spasmed from continual chewing on one side. The masseter is the most likely muscle to be tight on one side potentially leading to a mechanical imbalance of the entire jaw mechanism. Simply performing gentle trigger point therapy to the muscle belly on the tight side can help provide ample relief from pain associated with chewing.

Anyone suffering with a temporomandibular joint disorder should strongly consider consulting with a chiropractor. Chiropractic care is safe and effective at improving joint range of motion and reducing pain. The nerves of the neck can produce pain that is often mistaken for TMJ. The TMJ joint itself can become misaligned and exhibit improper mechanics, with changes taking place to the surrounding muscles. Don’t wait any longer while suffering with painful symptoms of the jaw. Get your case looked at by a healthcare professional that can help alleviate your suffering. Get in touch with your local chiropractor today.

About the author:

Dr. Joshua Burnham sees many patients with chronic pain disorders. He is an Owatonna chiropractor that specializes in the Gonstead Technique.

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