Have you ever noticed that you have been experiencing some discomfort around your jaw and its joints? You may be suffering from a condition known as TMJ dysfunction/disorder, so before we dive deeper into what may help this condition it is important to understand what TMJ dysfunction actually is. TMJ is short for temporomandibular joint, which is simply the joint which joins your skull to your jaw. There is a joint on either side of the jaw which provides motion for the jaw, allowing you to open and close your mouth. TMJ dysfunction can be described as a condition that occurs when our jaw is no longer moving as effectively or smoothly as it should be.
In periods of high stress or anxiety, we may find ourselves clenching our jaw or grinding our teeth. This may happen at night subconsciously when we are sleeping, as a result you may wake up with pain in your jaw directly, in your neck or may develop a headache.
How to know if you have TMJ Dysfunction
Aside from pain primarily in the jaw, you may also experience a clicking sensation or delayed function when opening or closing your mouth. This can be due to one side of your jaw being more tense or tighter than compared to the other side, as a result this could mean that the jaw becomes slightly out of sync due to the potential compensatory patterns that are taking place. This can result in the clicking or delayed movement of your jaw that you are experiencing.
While you may just experience pain in your jaw, it is also possible that you may feel pain in your face, neck or the base of your head. This is due to the fact that the muscles and ligaments of the jaw attach not only to the jaw but to different bones in your neck, base of your head and your neck.
Common Symptoms of TMJ Dysfunction:
- Jaw clicking or popping
- Pain at the site of your TMJ or pain around the jaw
- Trouble opening or closing your mouth
- Difficulty opening your mouth all the way
- Associated neck, shoulder or mid back pain
Can Osteopathy Help?
The treatment of your TMJ dysfunction will depend on the cause of the dysfunction. An osteopathic approach to treatment will involve the assessment of the jaw, neck, head and shoulders. Once the diagnosis of TMJ dysfunction has been reached your osteopath will discuss a treatment plan which may involve manual therapy, exercise prescription and patient education.
Techniques some of our Osteopaths may utilise throughout treatment here at Mandala Wellness may include;
- Joint manipulation and mobilisation
- Soft tissue and myofascial release
- Dry needling or myofascial cupping
- Ultrasound therapy
- Low level laser therapy
Tips for Management
- Self massage of jaw muscles
- Jaw exercises → slow controlled movement while opening and closing your jaw
- Relaxation methods that may help to reduce your amount of jaw clenching
Lomas, J. (2018). Temporomandibular dysfunction. Australian journal of general practice,
Herrera-Valencia, A., Ruiz-Muñoz, M., Martin-Martin, J., Cuesta-Vargas, A., & González-Sánchez, M. (2020). Efficacy of Manual Therapy in TemporomandibularJoint Disorders and Its Medium-and Long-TermEffects on Pain and Maximum Mouth Opening:A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Journal of clinical medicine, 9(11), 3404. https://doi.org/10.3390/jcm9113404
Murphy, M. K., MacBarb, R. F., Wong, M. E., & Athanasiou, K. A. (2013). Temporomandibular disorders: a review of etiology, clinical management, and tissue engineering strategies. The International journal of oral & maxillofacial implants, 28(6), e393–e414. https://doi.org/10.11607/jomi.te20