Have you had chronic pain symptoms that you and your doctor just can’t seem to pinpoint?
There is a long string of incorrect diagnostics that often come before correctly identifying TMJ as the culprit, despite the fact that it affects over 12% of North Americans (mainly women, at 90%) and is responsible for one-third of chronic migraine issues!
What is TMJ?
The temporomandibular is a sliding hinge, connecting your jaw to your upper skull. Sometimes TMJ/TMD disorders develop if these joints are misaligned or over-stressed, causing discomfort and often visible changes to this joining space.
Along with direct joint discomfort, TMJ can include a variety of seemingly unrelated symptoms, including common neck/back pain or headache symptoms, making it hard to link back to the mouth.
Comorbid Symptoms of TMJ
TMJ presents itself linearly, sometimes even being caused from a misalignment as low as your back. All of your muscles are connected from your spine up to your cranium, meaning TMJ symptoms can present as broadly and obscurely as:
- Back, shoulder, and neck pain (overcompensating for imbalanced face angles or it may start here and move up)
- (Tension) headaches and migraines jaw popping and locking, as well as stiffness or pain with movement
- Feeling like your jaw is moving backwards
Sometimes a misalignment beginning lower in the body works its way up to the jaw, and sometimes a misalignment in the mouth works its way down to terrorize other parts of the body. Identifying the source is important.
What Can Cause TMJ?
As already mentioned, TMJ can be caused by stress from a variety of source points. If the issue started in your back/shoulder region, it could be caused by:
- Poor posture
- Chest breathing
- Vitamin, hormone, and oxygen deficiencies
If the pain started in your head it may be because of:
- Early jaw/teeth misalignment or development issues
- Injury to mouth/arthritis
- Uneven wear- chewing on one side more or;
- Grinding/clamping (particularly when asleep), also called Bruxism
- Nail biting
- A once-displaced jaw, caused wearing down and shortening of one side permanently
- Caffeine, smoking, sleep disorders, and alcohol have all been linked to Bruxism
A series of all of these symptoms may present if the TMJ imbalance has begun to spread along the muscular/joint lineage of your body, upwards or downwards. In other words, asymmetry may cause TMJ, or TMJ may cause asymmetry, amongst other things.
How To Treat TMJ
There are almost as many varieties of treatment tactics for TMJ, as there are causes. Wherever the issue started is where treatment will target.
Physio and massage/acupuncture is a common solution, offering various facial and/or neck exercises and stretches to either weaken or strengthen the muscles and joints. Another common aid is posture adjustment, using correctional supports such as body pillows and diaphragm breathing techniques.
For the mouth, when basic lifestyle changes, such as resting the jaw (ditching the gum, nail biting, and chewing evenly on both sides) don’t work, the next steps would include massaging, a custom fitted mouth guard, controlled arch braces, or neuromuscular dentistry– all offered here at the clinic. In more relentless cases, surgery may be required.
Around half of TMJ sufferers experience a quick and easy recovery, while others may have a longer road, in which case, recovery is a joint effort! To learn how we can help you, please call 613.271.7091 today for a virtual assesment with neuromuscular dentist Dr. Andrea Stevens, serving from Kanata.