The Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) is the anatomical name for the jaw joint. Pain arising from the TMJ can be very distressing and present in many ways. Commonly, TMJ pain is a result of clenching/grinding teeth but can also arise from trauma such as having teeth removed or sporting collisions.
Patients can often present with referred pain into their teeth, which only after Dentists have ruled out tooth pathology do patients realise that the TMJ is the cause of pain. Often patients will be aware that they clench or grind their teeth and may wear a mouthguard (splint) to protect their teeth at night. Whilst the guard may be successful in protecting the teeth, it is often not enough to relieve the TMJ pain.
Osteopaths have a range of techniques and exercises to reduce the muscular tension of TMJ disorders but importantly also look at the underlying reasons that may be causing them. Neck stiffness and tension, usually associated with ‘hunching’ over desks, increases the strain on the base of the skull, which closely relates to the TMJ. It is therefore a major focus of Osteopaths to address any neck issues in conjunction with treatment of the TMJ.
TMJ pain can present as:
Local pain in the front or inside of the ear.
Pain in the cheek or down the side of your face.
Headache in the region of the ‘temples’.
Local tooth pain.
Looking at your desk posture and changing position regularly is not only important for your back and neck but will also benefit potential TMJ issues.
Clenching and grinding is usually a result of emotional stress, and thus looking into relaxation activities or undertaking some exercise is also beneficial in the treatment process.
The final tip to improve TMJ pain is to not let your teeth come into contact with each other throughout the day. This relaxes the muscles which clench your jaw.