How Can Chiropractic Help TMJ joint problems ? –National TMJ Awareness Month (part 3 of 3)
How Can Chiropractic Help TMJ joint problems?
You may ask, “Why do you recommend chiropractic to correct a problem with my jaw?” In a previous post, I discussed how Chiropractic techniques that work so well with the spine can be applied to other joints in the body. The answer is simple; chiropractors are trained to correct problems due to bone misalignments.
Chiropractic care for the your TMJ joint can ease pain by correcting the misalignment between your spine and nervous system. Chiropractic can be effective at reducing your pain associated with your TMJ, either when used alone or as a complement to other treatments. This is because, rather than changing your diet or modifying your teeth; it relaxes your muscles, adjusts your joints and uses specific trigger points to accurately re-position your jaw. When done successfully, this will not only relieve your pain in the short run, but it can help prevent your TMJ pain from returning.
Chiropractic treatment of the TMJ joint focuses on relieving tension in the muscles around the joints themselves, using trigger point therapy. (A trigger point is a very sensitive area made of muscle fibers. Trigger points feel like knots and may cause pain or even a twitching response when pressure is applied to them.)
In some cases, misalignment of the jaw that results from improper posture or a back problem can cause your TMJ joint disorder. An approach to treating TMJ caused by misalignment in your neck and upper back is to perform chiropractic adjustments on your spinal joints in these areas. In addition, trigger point therapy is used to relieve tight muscles in the back around your spine. This reduces the amount of stress put on your jaw so that other treatments to adjust your jaw will be more effective.
Why Should You Use Chiropractic for TMJ Joint Disorder?
While there are numerous ways to treat TMJ joint disorder, scientific studies have shown that chiropractic was helpful in cases of TMJ. In a 2003 study, 15 participants were administered treatments. All participants showed improvements in the distance they could open their jaws and in pain measurements. Although this group was not compared to a group receiving traditional treatment, it shows that chiropractic treatments show promise as an emerging treatment for TMJ joint disorder.
Many report relief and satisfaction with chiropractic care for TMJ joint disorder. In a survey of 192 members of a health maintenance organization published in 2003, nearly two-thirds reported using some form of complementary medicine to treat TMJ. Almost everyone surveyed used complementary approaches together with other traditional treatments, and the greatest satisfaction was reported for the hands-on alternative therapies, including chiropractic.
Chiropractic may be used alone or in conjunction with other treatment approaches. Medications can include anti-inflammatories, analgesics (pain killers) and muscle relaxants, as well as local injections of corticosteroids in severe cases. Application of hot and cold compresses also reduces inflammation. When teeth grinding or clenching is an issue, wearing a mouth night guard can help prevent these actions during sleep. Bite plates can help correct misalignment. Stress reduction, relaxation techniques, jaw-stretching exercises, and modifying chewing habits are all behavioral approaches that are proven effective.
More research into chiropractic methods used to treat TMJ joint disorder are needed; meanwhile, evidence from existing studies as well as patient testimony suggest that chiropractic therapies are helpful in relieving TMJ symptoms.
If you are experiencing symptoms of TMJ, receiving treatment from a chiropractor can help.
You may also find relief with some or all of the following therapies:
- Moist Heat: Moist heat from a heat pack or a hot water bottle wrapped in a warm, moist towel can improve function and reduce pain. Be careful to avoid burning yourself when using heat.
- Ice: Ice packs can decrease inflammation and also numb pain and promote healing. Do not place an ice pack directly on your skin. Keep the pack wrapped in a clean cloth while you are using it. Do not use an ice pack for more than 10 – 15 minutes.
- Soft Diet: Soft or blended foods allow the jaw to rest temporarily. Remember to avoid hard, crunchy, and chewy foods. Do not stretch your mouth to accommodate such foods as corn on the cob, apples, or whole fruits.
- Jaw Exercises: Slow, gentle jaw exercises may help increase jaw mobility.
- Relaxation Techniques: Relaxation and guided imagery can be helpful in dealing with the pain that accompanies TMJ dysfunction. Deep, slow breathing enhances relaxation and modulates pain sensations. Some have found yoga, massage and meditation helpful in reducing stress and aiding relaxation.
- Side Sleeping: Sleep on your side using pillow support between shoulder and neck.
- Relax Facial Muscles: Make a concerted effort to relax your lips, and keep teeth apart.
- Yawning: Use your fist to support your chin as you yawn to prevent damage to the joint and to prevent your jaw from locking open.
In addition, you should avoid:
- Jaw Clenching
- Gum chewing
- Cradling the telephone–this may irritate jaw and neck muscles
- Anesthesia, which can affect mouth opening and damage joint
- Long dental appointments requiring an open mouth for more than thirty minutes
Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics 2003 Sep; 26(7):421-5.
Journal of Orofacial Pain 2003 summer; 17(3):224-36.
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