A common condition that we have seen more frequently in our office is temporomandibular joint dysfunction, or TMJD. Many people have the occasional jaw pain when taking a bite of a big burger or crunching down on hard candy, but people with chronic jaw pain can suffer terribly.
TMJ problems occur in the joint that connects your jaw to the rest of your head. Normal motion of this joint is not an option when it comes to having a jaw that functions normally. When correct jaw motion is compromised, the impact can be severe and can cause a variety of secondary issues, including:
- Neck pain
- Teeth grinding
- Sharp jaw pain
- Painful clicking
- …and more
Generally, problems with the TMJ have two main causes:
- Muscle dysfunction – the jaw muscles (masseter, temporalis, pterygoids) become dysfunctional leading to pain and abnormal movement patterns.
- Joint dysfunction – the TMJ is a complex joint. The disc within the joint can shift, the joint can degenerate, and the extremely sensitive nerve endings surrounding the joint can become inflamed.
To understand why the muscles of the jaw become dysfunctional, it’s important to understand what controls the muscles of the joint. Every muscle in your body, from your heart to your back to your bicep, is controlled by a nerve. The muscles of the jaw are under control of the Trigeminal Nerve, which is one of the 12 special nerves known as Cranial Nerves. Cranial nerves are special because they do not originate from the spine, they originate from the brain stem and exit out of the skull. Due to this, issues with the cranial nerves are usually a sign of a problem at the brain stem.
People with TMJD typically don’t have isolated jaw pain, they often have neck pain and headaches as well. A PubMed search shows numerous studies outlining an increased occurrence of TMJD in patients who have suffered a whiplash injury or head trauma. There is a close relationship of the Trigeminal Nerve and the top vertebrae in the neck. A strucutural abnormality at the top of the spine can create conditions where abnormal pain signals can occur.
How can NeuroStructural Chiropractic help with TMJD issues?
At Keystone Chiropractic, we look for structural abnormalities in the spine. Most of the cases we see, a structural shift is present at the topmost bone in the neck, the atlas, due to its unique shape and biomechanics. This area of the spine is connected to key structures of jaw function and can be the culprit in many TMJD cases. Our goal is to correct and stabilize this area so that the nerves can function normally again. We end up co-managing many cases with dentists who focus on TMJ treatment, which has been of great benefit to the patient.
Please contact us to schedule complimentary consultation where we can discuss if NeuroStructural Chiropractic can be part of the solution for your TMJ issue.