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TMJ Dysfunction: Causes, Symptoms, & How Chiropractic May Help

severe jaw painAre you suffering from jaw pain or headaches? Do you notice a clicking sound in your jaw when you open and close your mouth? You could be experiencing dysfunction in the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), where the jawbone connects to the skull.

This joint allows us to do things like chewing and talking. When we have TMJ dysfunction, it’s often due to inflammation or misalignment in the joint, leading to pain and discomfort.

Symptoms of TMJ Dysfunction

  • Clicking and popping in the joint
  • Headaches
  • Earaches
  • Ear infections
  • Neck pain
  • Shoulder pain

What Causes This Dysfunction?

Most of the time, dysfunction is due to stress or trauma to the joint. This can create dysfunctional movement and lead to arthritic changes. There’s a small disc within the joint, and often, the part of the jaw that connects to the skull slips off this disc, sometimes causing a clicking sensation. This misalignment can be painful due to the extra pressure against the disc.

Related Tension Headaches

Tension headaches are often associated with TMJ dysfunction. “The muscles controlling the jaw connect into the head, so when the jaw is irritated, these muscles tighten, leading to tension headaches,” said Dr. Luker.

How Chiropractic Care Can Help

Chiropractors can adjust the jaw depending on the location and nature of the dysfunction. They may use an instrument or manual adjustment to realign the joint. Chiropractic care for TMJ dysfunction is gentle and effective.

Lifestyle Changes to Support Healing

Dr. Luker also recommends the following:

  • Night guards: Wearing a night guard can help prevent clenching or grinding teeth while sleeping.
  • Self-massage: Practicing myofascial release or self-massage techniques can help relax the muscles controlling the jaw.
  • Avoid chewing gum and chewy foods: Reducing strain on the jaw by avoiding gum and chewy foods can help alleviate symptoms.
  • Take small bites: Cutting food into small pieces can reduce the need for large, stressful bites.
  • Yawn with your mouth closed: Learning to yawn with a closed mouth can help prevent hyperextension of the jaw, which can cause irritation.

A Patient Success Story

One 18-year-old patient had been experiencing severe migraines for several years. After seeing multiple specialists, she visited the UC Irvine student clinic. Dr. Luker discovered that the patient’s migraines were due to TMJ dysfunction most likely caused by a car accident. The patient was hit by an airbag and sustained whiplash.

The combination of chiropractic care and acupuncture on her jaw reduced her headaches significantly. After obtaining a night guard, the patient’s pain was nearly eliminated within a few short weeks.

If you are experiencing TMJ pain or headaches, contact us today to make an appointment. We want to help you heal!

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