The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is a hinge joint that is found just in front of your ears. It is meant to provide motion as the jaw opens and closes but it also allows for front to back and side to side motion. Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction (TMD) can result from soft tissue restriction or imbalance. Although possible, jaw pain is rarely an issue resulting from the joint itself. Jaw pain symptoms commonly present without a history of an accident or injury. Instead, repetitive motion and overuse can be the underlying cause. TMD symptoms can include jaw pain, ear pain, facial pain, neck pain, and headaches to name a few.
Manual therapy to the muscles around the jaw, particularly the muscles that close the jaw, is necessary. Also considered are joints and tissues of the neck, and upper back. It’s well researched that those suffering with jaw pain have increased activity of the neck musculature. The jaw itself rarely needs adjusting or manipulation. In addition, patients have to learn how to relax the tight muscles and strengthen the weak or lazy muscles. Patients with TMD respond very well to conservative treatment and rarely need medication.
If jaw clenching (bruxism) at night is present than this may need to be addressed as well for the TMD to fully resolve. Some of these cases need dental co-management in the form of a bite guard.
More Recommended Reading