Have you ever felt tightness in your jaw and just can’t fathom the cause? Does your jaw click when you are chewing or while trying to open/close your mouth? Are you not able to open your jaw very wide because its too painful? Do you suffer from headaches along with your jaw discomfort? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may be suffering from TMJD – TemporoMandibular Joint Dysfunction. More recently the term for this jaw dysfunction has been coined TMD or TemporoMandibular Disorders.
It is not rare that people suffer or have sometime in their life suffered from jaw pain. I have found that many of my Salt Lake City, Utah clients will come to me with complaints of back or neck pain; but when asked about any subsequent jaw pain, they often have that too. The Temporomandibular Joint is a unique joint because it not only can open and close vertically, but can move laterally as well. And because of this, I have seen TMD manifest a large variety of symptoms. As mentioned above, there can be clicking, the inability to open the jaw very wide and overall tightness. But here are some more symptoms that might not seem as obvious.
- Earaches (Otalgia)
- Throat ache that is not connected to a cold or flu
- Speech Abnormalities
- Toothache or tooth mobility
- Hearing loss
- Ringing in the ears (Tinnitus)
I’m sure there are many more symptoms of this disorder because it is not the dysfunction of any one muscle, but any dysfunction the jaw may be experiencing.
So how do these problems come about? Like I mentioned before, the jaw is a joint and a very unique one at that. Because it has a wide range of motions and functions (including tearing up food so that we can swallow), it was designed for strength. But the jaw can be overworked all too easily. Here are a few causes of TMD:
- Teeth Clenching
- Teeth Grinding (also called Bruxism)
- Constant Gum Chewing
- Trauma to the joint
Sometimes it is tricky to pinpoint why one has TMD. More often than not, this dysfunction occurs because of clenching or grinding of the teeth. But most of the time, this is happening at night when one is sleeping. So what can be done about this? Most people who are having recurring jaw pain will go to their family dentist or to a jaw specialist. These practitioners will pretty much always suggest that the patient get a night-guard mouthpiece to wear during sleep to prevent this involuntary clenching or grinding. A lot of times I have worked with clients who say that these mouthpieces ease the pain but guess what – they usually don’t get rid of the pain indefinitely or even work at all. Think about how strong that joint is. A night-guard may ease the stress on the joint a little bit, but it still does not prevent the person from clenching. The muscles in the jaw that are in crisis must be released.
Now that we know the causes and symptoms of TMD, I would like to explain the anatomy of the joint and the muscles and connective tissue that surround it. Below, I have displayed an illustration of what this joint looks like.
The Masseter and Temporalis muscles play a big part in TMJ and it is not rare to find tiny triggerpoints at these locations. In my experience, just using simple triggerpoint techniques can alleviate a large amount of the pain. Another muscle that affects your jaw are your Zygomas. These lie right about where your cheek bones are and extend out laterally.
In my practice, I have a specific protocol for TMJ that often produces astonishing results. This protocol consists of stripping the muscles around the joint and also under the mandible. Once the muscles of the face have been stripped and mobilized, I then do some work inside of the ears. Following this, some of the techniques that I use are slightly invasive simply because I actually do some work inside of the mouth. (Don’t worry I use gloves!) Inside the mouth lie your maxillary roof and Pterygoids which can be released by using specific holds. These holds help the muscles to literally unwind and relax. When I address the muscles from inside the mouth I have had nothing but good results. It can be a little bit uncomfortable, but once the session is over the client is usually pleasantly surprised.
I am very confident in these techniques not only from the results that I have seen in my clients, but I also suffer from a slight case of TMD that causes me jaw pain and sometimes headaches. When I have this work done on myself, it is clearly a world of difference. My jaw feels more loose and the pain vanishes, my headaches go away and I can literally open my jaw much wider.
TMD is a very common disorder and I suspect that a lot of people have it, but get so used to the pain that they don’t end up treating it. If you are suffering from any type of jaw or ear pain, can’t open your jaw very wide, experience clicking or popping in the jaw, or are getting constant headaches, I strongly suggest you try a TMJ treatment. These sessions last roughly an hour, but this protocol has proved to be a long -lasting reliever. Call me today to schedule an appointment for a TMJ massage in Salt Lake City, Utah and lets alleviate that jaw pain (801) 349-3934.