Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) pain is far more common than most people realize. Anywhere from 10 million to 36 million American adults may suffer from this type of jaw pain. A survey done by the dentistry magazine Dear Doctor found that the average age of TMJ pain sufferers was 41, and that they were predominantly female.
Many people think that chiropractors only take care of back problems. However, the truth is that chiropractic care can help with a whole host of issues throughout the entire body. In some cases, chiropractic treatment can work alongside treatment from other health care providers to help the patient have a better recovery. One good example of this is with jaw pain due to TMJ problems. Dr. Nathen Horst will work closely with the patient’s dentist to effectively treat pain and symptoms of TMJ pain.
What Is Temporomandibular Pain?
The temporomandibular joint attaches the jaw to the skull. It works very much like a sliding hinge, wherein the moving parts of the joint are cushioned by a disk of cartilage (called the articular disk) that acts as a shock absorber and keeps the joint moving smoothly. TMJ pain can have several causes, including arthritis, injury to the joint area, or articular disk erosion or misalignment due to grinding of the teeth. Standard treatment can include muscle relaxants, antidepressants, lifestyle counseling to reduce stress, and use of oral splints fitted over the teeth.
A case report from the March 2014 issue of the Journal of Chiropractic Medicine shows how chiropractic care can be effective in cases of TMJ pain. In the case report, a woman underwent chiropractic care for TMJ pain, tinnitus, headaches, and neck and shoulder soreness. She also could not open her mouth very wide (42 mm out of a maximum 49 mm), had articular disk displacement that showed up on x-rays, and reduced side to side (lateral) movement of the neck. She rated her pain as 6 on a 10-point scale.
Dental treatment consisted of an oral splint to properly position the articular disk. Chiropractic treatment consisted of instrument adjusting to the upper (cervical), middle (thoracic), and pelvic spinal regions in order to release tension in the spine that could be causing the patient to tense her jaw, exacerbating the pain. The TMJ was also manually moved up and down to help loosen the joint. Relaxation exercises for the head and neck were also done. The patient received chiropractic treatment six times over the course of three weeks. At the end of the three weeks, the patient reported no pain. She could fully open her mouth, and had increased side to side range of motion of the upper (cervical) region of the spine.
This case report shows that by combining proper dental care with chiropractic treatment, patients who suffer from certain types of jaw pain can benefit from pain relief, as well as long-term treatment to reduce or prevent re-occurrence of the problem. Chiropractic spinal adjustments are a vital part of treating both the causes and the symptoms of TMJ pain.