What is TMJ? The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is located in front of each of your ears where your skull and lower jaw meet. It allows your lower jaw (mandible) to move. The TMJ is a hinge and gliding joint and is the most constantly used joint in the body. The round upper end of the lower jaw or the movable portion of the joint, is called the condyle; the socket is called the articular fossa. Between the condyle and the fossa is a disk made of cartilage that act as a cushion to absorb stress and allow the condyle to move easily when the mouth opens and closes. If the joint does not work effectively, it is called TMJ Dysfunction.
TMJ Dysfunction is quite common and has a variety of symptoms, such as earaches, headaches, locking of your jaw, or difficulty opening your mouth. You may also find you have clicking or grating sounds in the joint and might feel pain when opening and closing your mouth.
The causes of TMJ dysfunction are varied. Arthritis is one cause of TMJ dysfunction symptoms. Sometimes it is the result of an injury or from grinding your teeth at night. Another common cause involves displacement or dislocation of the disk between the jawbone and the socket. A displaced or dislocated disk may produce clicking or popping sounds, limit your jaw movement and cause pain when you open and close your mouth.
The disk can also develop a hole (perforation), which can produce a grating sound when the joint moves. There are also conditions such as trauma (a broken bone or jaw injury) or rheumatoid arthritis that can cause the parts of the TMJ to fuse, preventing jaw movement altogether.
There are a number of things that you can do to improve the function of your TMF and ease the pain:
Massaging your muscles, gums, and the roof of your mouth
Avoiding foods that are hard to chew
Doing exercises to relax your jaw and face
Practicing good posture
Using hot or cold packs on your face
Keep frozen green peas on side of mouth to ice inside
Yoga breathing (prescribed by your O.T./P.T therapist
Guided Relaxation/Meditation Practice
Some doctors will prescribe anti-inflammatory medication (such as ibuprofen) that can bring down the swelling and help your jaw relax. In some instances TMJ treatment can involve wearing a mouthguard or splint, which helps if you clench your jaw or grind your teeth, particularly at night.
At Vital Energy, our therapists have extensive experience treating migraines and TMJ, or temporomandibular joint dysfunction. This disorder restricts your ability to move your jaw up and down and side to side, affecting everyday activities such as speaking or chewing. It can be caused by grinding your teeth, arthritis in the joint, or stress that causes you to tighten facial and jaw muscles. TMJ and frequent migraine headaches are usually closely related.