TMJ stands for temporomandibular joint. It is the joint where the jaw hinges to the skull just in front of the ear. The joint is held together by a complex group of muscles, tendons and ligaments. There is a cartilage disc in the joint similar to the knee joint. The TMJ is the most active joint in the body, moving up to 2,000 times a day during talking, chewing, yawning, etc. TMJ disorder is four times more common in women than men.
It is estimated that forty million people suffer from some level of TMJ disorder. Symptoms are clicking or popping jaw, headache, earache, facial pain in front of the ear, neck pain and sensitive teeth.
The disorder can be caused by a number of things including dental problems, injury to the jaw, whiplash type injury to the neck, and grinding and clenching the teeth.
The onset of symptoms is usually gradual, progressively getting worse over a period of a few days to several months. It may be precipitated by yawning, prolonged dental work, eating an apple, hard chewing or trauma to the jaw.
Whether the cause of the problem is due to a jaw injury, a whiplash, dental problem, emotional stress, etc., there is almost always an involvement of the neck muscles. Prolonged contraction of the neck muscles can contribute to TMJ discomfort or be the result of TMJ discomfort. Either way, gentle chiropractic spinal adjustments in the neck area can aid recovery, in addition to any other therapy required to correct the problem.
The prolonged contraction of the jaw and neck muscles can produce vertebral misalignments in the cervical spine much like thumb sucking can cause protruding teeth. When the spine is misaligned, it can irritate or create pressure on nerves causing nervousness, irritability, anxiety, depression, headaches, pain or numbness in the arms and hands, backaches, etc.
If someone you know is suffering from TMJ disorder, please suggest they call for an evaluation. The sooner the condition is treated, the faster the response.