What are Jaw Pain & TMJ?
There are many words used to describe jaw pain. Physios usually call it Craniomandibular pain, medical or pain physicians calling or a orofacial pain, Chiropractors in the general public usually refer to it as TMJ or temporomandibular joint pain. And dentist use the term TMD or temporomandibular dysfunction pain. Whatever it is called most people know where their jaw is, that they have pain there and that is all we really need to know to go any further.
Generally, jaw pain is likely to arise after a trip to the dentist, a direct trauma, incident or car accident, arthritis or just because your joint is not working as it should. People often claim their jaw is painful or tender to touch, they have aching around their ear, difficulty chewing hard food and that they wake up with a sore jaw or jaw locking.
Signs and symptoms of jaw pain occur in at least a quarter of the population. Most people experience pain as the primary concern. It is also quite common for people to have headaches as a result of their jaw pain.
People generally experience facial or jaw pain for a variety of reasons. You’re more likely to have facial pain if your diet is poor or if you’re a smoker, if you have sustained poor posture or a big trauma such as a car accident, if someone in your family also has jaw pain, if yourself from anxiety, depression or high stress, people with migraines often get more jaw pain, as well as people with sleep disorders such as grinding in their teeth or draw clenching.
The jaw has a way of moving normally that allows for optimal function and minimal pain. No joint sounds should be audible, which means no clicking or pain with TMJ movement. You should be able to move your jaw side to side or forward without pain and you should be able to open your mouth about 5 cm. You can test your own jaw range of motion by trying to insert three knuckles into your mouth. When you feel your jaw there should not be any points of extreme pain or pain referring into your head or elsewhere in your jaw. The normal function of the jaw is to rotate as you begin opening your mouth and then it starts to slide as your mouth opens further.
A visual inspection of someone with jaw pain may look like they have a head tilt from the front and will usually have a forward leaning head posture. Our Chiropractors are trained to assess your jaw posture and to test the muscles around your jaw to find out if any of them are causing you to have pain.
There are 4 different diagnosis that can be the cause of your jaw pain. The muscles and trigger points can be painful and cause pain in other areas. The capsule of the jaw joint can become stuck or painful. The disc that is in between the jaw joints can result in locking or a click. Usually people have very restricted range of motion and your joint when touched will be very sore.
Management of muscular jaw pain can be done in using a few different strategies. People often find relief from heat packs, dry needling, jaw joint mobilisation, exercises that include resistance of the jaw and improvements to breathing patterns and stress.
Chiropractors are trained in many techniques to help with jaw pain including passive joint mobilisations, transverse friction massage, joint instrument adjustment, passive resistance exercises, active resistance exercises and more. The Chiropractors know how to teach you the correct jaw posture, which includes having the tongue on the roof of your mouth making the letter and sound, your teeth being just off each other leaving a small air gap and you are breathing in and out through your nose. This position is a neutral jaw position and allows for a reduction in jaw tension.
Females are 4 times more likely to experience jaw pain than males. Most incidences of TMJ problems occur in adults between the age of 20 and 40 and jaw pain is very uncommon in children.
Joint noise – there are two main types of joint noise that can come from your jaw. Number one is clicking or popping would usually indicates a disc problem and the jaw joint jumping off the disk. The other is called crepitus, which usually is a sign of degeneration in the jaw joint causing a grinding like sensation.
The number one muscle that can cause jaw pain is called the lateral pterygoid. This is due to its attachment to the disc which can cause disc and jaw to be unable to return to the normal position, this results in clicking a popping noise. Another muscle is similar to the lateral pterygoid is the medial pterygoid, people with issues in this area can feel a stuffiness in the ear, trouble swallowing or sticking their jaw out forward. There are also muscles in your temple region that can refer pain into your head or jaw.
If you suffer from jaw pain and need some guidance assistance in reducing the level of pain then reach out to one of our staff and we will organise an appointment to assess you and see if Chiropractic care can help.