Temporal Mandibular Joint Dysfunction (TMD), also known as TMJ syndrome, is a complex musculoskeletal condition involving the teeth and mandible in conjunction with the surrounding nerves, ligaments, connective tissue, and the 68 pairs of muscles that control the joint. TMJ syndrome symptoms can vary from case to case but those with the condition will often experience jaw pain, headaches, problems chewing, earaches, clicking and grinding, or difficulty opening/closing the mouth. According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, the disorder affects approximately 35 million people in the United States, with women experiencing it four times more often than men.
What Causes TMJ Dysfunction?
When the joint between the temporal (temple) and mandibular (jaw) bones is misaligned it displaces the articular disc that allows for the smooth gliding motion of the joint. The clicking noise often associated with TMJ syndrome will occur when the condyle (head) of the mandible passes over the ridge of the disk. While severe injury to the jaw is the most common cause, this type of misalignment can be caused by a variety of physical and emotional stresses. For example, anything from a hit to the side of the face during a sporting activity to chewing gum excessively or having extensive dental work done may cause TMJ dysfunction.
Treatment of TMJ
Traditional medical treatments are usually aimed at addressing the symptoms of TMJ dysfunction. For short-term relief, medications intended to reduce pain and corrective oral appliances intended to prevent clenching of the jaw (bruxism) are the most commonly prescribed treatments. Surgery, though less common, is also an option, but as with any surgical procedure risks are involved.
On the other hand, multiple studies have shown chiropractic adjustments to be an incredibly safe and effective method of treatment for the condition. In a 2003 study published in JMPT, 15 participants suffering from TMJ dysfunction were treated using chiropractic care. 100% of the participants showed improvement in the distance they could open their jaws and their degrees of pain. Further studies have continued to support chiropractic’s effectiveness in treating TMJ problems. In a survey of 192 HMO members with TMJ dysfunction, nearly two-thirds reported using some form of complementary medicine in conjunction with traditional treatments, and the greatest satisfaction was reported by those using hands-on therapies such as chiropractic.
Chiropractic Treatment For TMJ Dysfunction
While the specific methods of treatment used by a chiropractor to treat a TMJ dysfunction will depend on the patient, treatment usually involves gentle hands-on manipulation of the mandible and articular disc back to their normal position. This often provides short-term relief, but as chiropractors we’re interested in correcting not just the symptoms but also the cause of the problem. Because misalignment of the vertebra in the neck can cause an imbalance in the muscles controlling the action of the TMJ joint, treatment plans will often include adjustments to the cervical spine as well if indicated. Additionally, a chiropractor may recommend stress reduction and relaxation techniques, TMJ-specific exercises or modification of chewing habits to help prevent re-injury of the TMJ in the future.
Of course, in some cases, TMJ disorders may not respond to a conservative chiropractic approach and may require more aggressive dental or surgical treatment. However, this should be a last resort to be considered only after chiropractic care fails to improve the condition.
Are you suffering from TMJ syndrome in Milwaukee? At Wellness Way Chiropractic we use a gentle, non-thrusting adjusting technique to correct the joint misalignments that are often the source of TMJ problems. To make an appointment today, call us at 414-367-6050 or use our online scheduling app.
Devocht JW, et al. Chiropractic treatment of temporomandibular disorders using the activator adjusting instrument: a prospective case series. Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics 2003 Sep; 26(7):421-5.
Chiropractic approaches to temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMD). J Am Chiropr Assoc April 2001;38(4): 8-17.