Do you have the "TMJ?"

In medical terminology, Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction (TMD) is when there is pain, clicking, popping, deviation, and trouble opening the jaw.

Because the TMJ is a highly complex joint and is the most unstable joint in the body, many people suffer from TMD and the different problems that arise. It is one of the most common conditions we treat in Rochester.

How does TMJ Dysfunction develop?

Problems with your TMJ can develop from trauma, such as sports injuries, motor vehicle accidents, dental procedures, or even a deep yawn. On other occasions, it originates from clenching, teeth grinding, nail biting, and stress.

With the increasing stress of everyday life, most people are unaware that they clench their jaw and grind their teeth. Over time, this can lead to TMJ pain and dysfunction. Consistent grinding and clenching cause the muscles surrounding the jaw and head to tighten up and become painful. Due to the joint's anatomy, this can become a 'vice-grip' around your head, causing frequent headaches and jaw pain.

How do you know if you have TMD?

Symptoms of TMD can include:

  • Jaw pain
  • Painful yawning or opening of your mouth
  • Clicking or popping of your jaw
  • Headaches
  • Neck Pain
  • Restricted or tightness opening mouth
  • Deviation of the jaw when opening your mouth
  • Unable to fit 3 finger widths in your mouth

Skare Spine and Performance approach:

Depending on the cause of your TMD, treatment will often consist of the following:

  • Soft-tissue and muscle release techniques to relax the musculature 
  • Dry needling or acupuncture to help release trigger points 
  • TMJ mobilizations
  • Clenching awareness 
  • Muscle retraining with opening/closing 
  • Addressing stress and habits that can lead to dysfunction

 When the initial injury to the TMJ is non-traumatic and comes on gradually, conservative care has excellent results. 

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"Significant association between neck pain and TMD Symptoms" R. Ciancaglini, 1999

Because of how closely associated the jaw musculature and the neck is, TMD is often present when there is neck pain and dysfunction, and vice versa.

Dr. Skare will examine both when treating neck or TMJ dysfunction.  

Learn More About Neck Pain

How can clenching lead to headaches?

Two of the main muscles that close your mouth are known as the masseter and temporalis. You can feel these muscles just down in front of your ears, under the cheekbone, and on the side of your head by your temples.

When you clench, you are effectively contracting these muscles. When you clench for long periods or overnight when you sleep, you hold these muscles in a contracted state for lengthy amounts of time. Could you imagine holding a bicep curl all day? Your arm would be sore!

These muscles wrapping around your head can create a 'vice-grip' leading to frequent headaches and jaw pain, especially in the mornings, after long days, or after stressful periods.

With muscle relaxation techniques and stretches, these muscles can loosen up, resulting in fewer headaches and tension.

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