How Can Integrated Chiropractic Care Help with TMJ Pain?
If you’ve ever experienced jaw pain, you know that it can be excruciating. Not only is it painful in your jaw and face but it can also cause unrelenting radiating pain throughout your entire head, ears, neck, and shoulders. We unconsciously use our jaws every day for so many movements. For example, when we speak, eat, laugh, take deep breaths, and yawn, the muscles and joints in our jaw are involved. Often, it’s not until pain is felt in these areas that we realize how much work the muscles in our jaw and face really do.
What is TMJ?
TMJ is a term you hear people use when they are referring to temporomandibular joint disorder. The technical term is TMD or temporomandibular joint disorder. TMJ and TMD terminology are often used interchangeably. Symptoms of pain and loss of function, ranging from mild to severe, may be found in one or more location: the jaw, jaw joints, in and around your ear, your face, shoulders, neck, and muscles used during chewing. There may also be difficulties opening or closing your mouth. You may experience symptoms in one, several, or all areas any time the muscles and ligaments around your jaw joints become inflamed, irritated, and/or the joint is misaligned.
What Causes TMJ?
TMJ pain can be caused by a number of things. Common causes of TMJ disorder are an injury, arthritis, improper bite, poor posture, and/or stress. Poor posture, especially while working, is also a significant contributor to over used muscles, prolonged stress related injuries, fatigue, joint pain (including the jaw,) and a myriad of muscle skeletal problems.
The most common cause of TMJ is bruxism, the medical term for jaw clenching and teeth grinding. Bruxism is often something jaw pain sufferers do unconsciously while they’re sleeping. Jaw pain can be an indication that a person is clenching their jaw or grinding their teeth during sleep. In some extreme cases, teeth grinding can be so severe that it can be heard from another room.
Perhaps the most frustrating part of TMJ disorder is the natural instinct to clench or tighten the jaw whenever the human body feels pain or stress. A vicious pain cycle may be in place, without even realizing it because our body creates more pain as a reaction to simply being in pain.
How Can Chiropractic Care Help with TMJ?
A dentist trained in TMJ treatment can be a tremendous help. Your dentist can fit you for a tailor-made mouthguard and/or even administer Botox® to help treat pain from bruxism related TMJ. However, if you’re like one of 35 million people who have dental anxiety or if your TMJ pain doesn’t stem from bruxism, chiropractic treatment is a great option for your jaw pain.
A Thorough Chiropractic Exam & Adjustment
Dr Davis' chiropractic care for a TMJ patient begins with a thorough examination of your health history. This includes a discussion and evaluation of your dental experience, previous injuries, particularly injuries relating to your neck and head. The chiropractor will then perform an evaluation of your jaw, head, neck, and body posture to determine the root cause of the symptoms presented. Once this exam is complete, Dr. Davis and you will create an individualized and dynamic action care plan.
As per your care plan, Dr. Davis may perform chiropractic adjustments and/or
medical massage, depending on what is necessary for you to feel and function better. She provides gentle spinal adjustments, either by hand or with a low force Activator adjusting instrument. Regular adjustments are important for improving your overall posture, while addressing spine, head, and jaw alignment. Massaging and working on soft tissues, which include muscles. ligaments, tendons, and fascia attached to and surrounding your jaw, helps to relieve your TMJ pain as well.
In addition to a chiropractic adjustment, Dr. Davis can perform a medical massage. Medical massage is a specific manual therapy treatment system. Medical massage techniques are applied to the specific areas "root cause(s)" of the patient's chief complaint. Medical massage may involve several progressive steps or stages of treatment which attempt to correct abnormal conditions affecting dysfunction of muscles and the joint complex. Medical massage encourages stress relief and muscle relaxation, promote muscle re-education, and stimulate circulation and lymph drainage.
Ultrasound for TMJ Treatment
A lesser-known option for TMJ pain relief is the use of ultrasound technology. Studies show that ultrasound technology, when used at a low-level intensity, is quite helpful in healing. Ultrasound helps to promote improved blood flow, thereby reducing inflammation and irritation that causes TMJ pain.
Dr. Davis will also design a nutrition plan with you that will help to reduce inflammation and control pain. This is a great way to ensure that the foods you’re consuming are not contributing to your TMJ pain. Avoiding foods like white bread, fried foods, soda, and processed meats is a great start to reducing overall inflammation in the body.
An Ergonomic Workstation for TMJ Pain
Poor posture and sub-optimal ergonomic work environments can lead to many unhealthy outcomes. By the end of 2022, 25% of all jobs in North America will require employees to work-from-home. This certainly comes with some advantages but if your workstation is not set up properly for your individualized needs, your physical health can take a postural downward spiral.
Setting up a personally fitted ergonomic workstation can make a huge difference. This is important whether you work in an office or at home. If you’re experiencing pain, whether it’s TMJ pain or body pain, it’s important to understand that pain is a symptom. Pain can indicate that what we are doing to, and/or with, our body every day is having a negative impact. There are always ways to improve your work environment whether you work while sitting at a desk, standing on your feet, or you are driving. Questions to ask yourself and to discuss with Dr. Davis are:
Do I have an ill-fitting office chair?
Would an anti-fatigue mat be helpful for me?
Do I need a lumbar pillow?
Dr. Davis is available to perform an ergonomic assessment to uncover possible problematic areas in your work environment and suggest actionable ways to make positive improvements.
Self-Care for TMJ Pain
A little self-care can go a long way in reducing TMJ pain as well as overall body stress. Small improvements to sleeping habits can have big benefits in reducing body aches and pain. A few simple changes may include avoiding any digital devices at least one hour before bed, creating a preparation routine for rest and sleep, light stretching, meditation, and practicing gratitude. These are all starting points to obtain the proper restoration and repair your body needs during a restful night sleep.
Incorporating daily movement and/or exercise such as walking, bike riding, swimming or stretching can lend to a healthier physical and mental wellbeing. Taking care of our mental health is just as important as taking care of our physical health. Often viewed as separate entities, the mind and body are actually one entity and often reflect the state of our overall health. Our physical bodies are often great indicators of the mental stress we are experiencing at any given time. These indicators are often the expression of symptoms such as pain, aches, and stiffness. Support from a trusted friend or mental health professional will help to become mentally and emotionally healthier, which can be a key piece of TMJ and total body health. Our friend, Sheila Weibrod, LPC, is a great mental health professional/resource to consult with if you’re feeling stressed and/or overwhelmed.
We know that dealing with TMJ pain can be frustrating. As a TMJ patient trying to figure out where to turn for help can lead to even more stress. We hope that this information has been helpful in describing how chiropractic care and Dr. Davis can help with decreasing or eliminating your TMJ pain. If you’re experiencing any jaw pain, neck. and/or shoulder tightness, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our office. Dr. Davis has over 30+ years of experience in chiropractic and medical massage care. Click the button and call today for a complimentary 15-minute consultation with Dr. Davis to see if she may be able help you improve or resolve your TMJ pain and discomfort.