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What is TMJ, and Why Does It Hurt?

 

The temporomandibular joints (TMJ) and the surrounding muscles can become a source or head, neck, face, tooth, eye, and/or ear pain. This is specifically referred to as temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMD).

The right and left TMJs connect the mandible to the temporal bone.

 What Causes TMD?

Researchers agree that TMD falls into three categories:

  1. Myofascial pain—discomfort or pain in the muscles of the jaw, neck, or shoulders.
  2. A dislocated jaw or displaced disc.
  3. Degenerative joint disease— osteoarthritis and inflammation in the jaw joint.

Sudden injury to the jaw can be a cause of TMD.  The joint can be sprained with joint swelling and spasm of the surrounding muscles.  Yet most cases of TMD begin slowly. These chronic cases involving restricted jaw motion also result in alteration of the jaw stability mechanics.

Emotional stress can exacerbate TMD, as well. Stress shows up in the body in many different ways.  The jaw clenching muscles and breathing muscles of the neck are most often effected. The stressful muscle patterns are not necessarily causing the problem but are symptomatic of an underlying muscle imbalance.

To help diagnose your TMD, your doctor of chiropractic (DC) at Cole Pain Therapy Group may ask you to open and close your mouth while monitoring the motion of the jaw joint and the balance of the muscles. Your DC can also look for signs of inflammation and other abnormalities resulting in head/face pain.

If you have TMD, your doctor may recommend chiropractic manipulation, myofasical release, massage, and special exercises.  Rehabilitative management of TMD is an excellent and conservative treatment option.

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