No smile on your dial?
TMJ, That grinding pain that if left untreated can lead to waaay more pain, inability to chew leading to poor nutrition, headaches, migraines, ear pain, lack of sleep, teeth pain, lockjaw, dizziness, anxiety, anxiety and depression. Chronic pain can be incredibly debilitating but it doesn’t have to be that way. Let’s pull this baby apart and have a look at the issues.
What is TMJ pain?
Firstly what is it? Well firstly TMJ stands for Temporo-Mandibular Joint, which is why it’s shortened to TMJ. Way too much of a mouthful, particularly if you are in pain.
The joint is one that is between the Temporal bone, which is one of the cranial bones or bones of your head and the Mandible, your lower jaw bone. It is the one on the side of your head through which your eustachian tube or ear hole goes through. Naturally when there is a problem here it can affect the function of your ear creating tinnitus, loss of hearing, dizziness, vertigo, nausea and vomiting (that’s when it’s really bad).
What are the symptoms of TMJ dysfunction?
In a nutshell the main symptom is pain. This pain can spread around the jaw face and head and can range from mild discomfort to feeling like your head is in a vice.
- inability to chew which can lead to poor nutrition
- ear pain
- lack of sleep
- teeth pain
- locking of the jaw
- anxiety and depression
What caused TMJ pain?
There can be a whole host of issues causing TMJ pain and sometimes it can be difficult to always get to the cause. In some cases there may be a combination of issues that contribute so it’s always important to look at all potential factors.
Contributing factors may include:
- Injury to the face or jaw
- Bruxism (clenching the jaw excessively)
- Stress leading to bruxism
- Misaligned jaw resulting in the jaw function not working as it should
- Poor sleep position putting pressure on the jaw
- Teeth grinding (similar to bruxism)
- Connective tissue disease leading to degeneration of the jaw
- Genetic malformation of the jaw
- Cervical disc issue
How is TMJ diagnosed?
Essentially if you have persistent jaw pain then it’s likely that you have a TMJ problem.
Diagnostic tests may include:
- Physical examination
- CT scan
What are some treatment options for TMJ pain?
It’s important to recognise that by the time someone presents to their practitioner with a TMJ issue it is usually chronic and so unfortunately does take time to treat.
Some treatment options may include:
- Soft tissue release to reduce jaw tension
- Dental splint to help realign the jaw at night and reduce the effect of teeth griding
- Exercises to strengthen and/ or relax the jaw muscles
- Eating soft food to allow the jaw muscles to relax
- Avoid excess chewing like in the case of chewing gum
- Pain medication
- Diet to reduce systemic inflammation in the case of connective tissue disease and arthritis
- Stress management
- Meditation as per stress managment
- Fish oil helps to reduce inflammation
- Natural anti-inflammatories like Turmeric and Boswellia
- Herbal medicine
Acupuncture and TMJ
Acupuncture in general has been shown to be very effective in the management of pain. The issue with pain type issues such as TMJ is that often they may be caused by tension and pain exacerbates tension. By addressing the pain directly often the tension will reduce and allow the condition to improve over time.
A study (1) in 2010 showed acupuncture treatment of TMJ achieved immediate effect in pain and showed ongoing positive effects after a treatment regime over 8 – 10 weeks
A review of randomised control trials (2) found acupuncture to have a positive effect in the treatment of pain associated with TMJ compared to the control groups.
A review of acupuncture randomised control trials (3) found acupuncture showed promising results in the management of TMJ symptoms
- Acupuncture for Treating Temporomandibular Disorder: Retrospective Study on Safety and Efficacy: Garty Adriel, Maimon Yair, Miller Udi; Acupunct Meridian Stud 2010 Dec
- Acupuncture therapy in the management of the clinical outcomes for temporomandibular disorders A PRISMA-compliant meta-analysis: Jun-Yi Wu, MD,Chao Zhang, MD, Yang-Peng Xu, MM, Ya-Yu Yu, MD,Le Peng, PhD, Wei-Dong Leng, PhD,Yu-Ming Niu, PhD, and Mo-Hong Deng, PhD
- Acupuncture for Temporomandibular Disorders: A Systematic Review: Seung-Hun Cho KMD PhD, Wei-Wan Whang KMD PhD.