TMJ Dysfunction Treatment: A Springfield, IL Chiropractor’s Perspective
It is widely known that chiropractic care is one of the best ways to naturally and effectively treat common musculoskeletal conditions like lower back pain, neck pain, and headaches. However, chiropractors are capable of treating other musculoskeletal conditions, including one that is extremely common, but not often talked about. Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction (TMJD) a condition that affects the jaw joint, which allows the mouth to open and close. TMJD is actually the second most common musculoskeletal disorder behind lower back pain, affecting 12% of the population at any one time. Common symptoms of TMJD include jaw pain, jaw clicking or popping, difficulty chewing, and even associated conditions such as neck pain and headaches.
The temporomandibular joint is very unique. Similar to joints such as the knee, it is known as a hinge joint, meaning that it moves back and forth in a single direction (as the mouth opens and closes. The joint is located just in front of the ear where the mandible bone meets the temporal bone of the skull. Between these two bones there is a disc made of fibrocartilage that cushions and supports the joint. As the mouth opens, the disc slides forward with the joint to maintain support and comfort in this motion. When TMJD occurs, it usually involves issues with the disc being displaced from its normal spot. This can lead to different symptoms and overall discomfort, causing people to seek out treatment options.
Traditionally, TMJD has been treated by oral care providers through treatments such as the use of splints or implants, botox injections, and even surgery. Many times, these treatments are quite costly, and yet don’t fully address the root cause of the problem. At the Springfield Wellness Center, our chiropractors have received advanced training in the diagnosis, treatment, and management of TMJD using completely natural methods. Our doctors can address the root cause of the problem and get you back to feeling the way you want to in a cost-efficient and safe manner.
How We Treat TMJD Pain in Springfield, IL
Comprehensive Consultation and Exam
If you visit our office to discuss the problems you have had with TMJD, the first step will be the consultation and exam. During the consultation, our doctors will listen to your story so they can better understand the struggles you have experienced in living with and managing your TMJD pain. Even though TMJD is a very common condition, the impact it can have on people’s lives is very real. That’s why our doctors want to listen to your experiences and understand the impact it has had on your life.
Following the consultation will be a detailed examination. Our doctors will assess and measure the ranges of motion of the TMJs to determine where restriction and dysfunction are occurring. They will also conduct several orthopedic and chiropractic tests because TMJD is commonly a root cause of other conditions in this area such as headaches and neck pain. For best results, it is important to address all aspects of TMJD, so the importance of these additional tests can not be emphasized enough. Overall, the consultation and examination process will give our doctors a detailed understanding of you, your condition, and the extent to which it has affected your life.
Specific Chiropractic Care | Springfield, IL
When it comes to treating TMJD at the Springfield Wellness Center, our doctors take a 360-degree approach to addressing this condition. One key element of this is chiropractic care not only to the TMJ itself but also to the cervical spine (neck) as well. In a similar fashion to the spine, the TMJ is a joint where 2 bones meet by way of a fibrocartilage disc. When this joint and/or disc becomes displaced, gentle chiropractic adjustments to this joint can help restore alignment and decrease pain. At the Springfield Wellness Center, we use a device called an Arthrostim to perform this adjustment. This allows for the adjustment to be effective, but also comfortable for the patient.
In addition to adjusting the TMJ itself, it is very important to assess the cervical spine as well. Dysfunction of the cervical spine can alter the mechanics of the TMJ, which can lead to related conditions such as neck pain and headaches. Specifically, our chiropractors will be checking your neck for subluxation, which is a condition in which vertebrae in your cervical spine shift out of normal alignment and irritates the adjacent nerves. By restoring normal alignment to the neck, as well as correcting dysfunction in the TMJ, our doctors can make you feel better than ever before!
Massage Therapy and Soft Tissue Work
One of the most crucial elements to correcting TMJD is addressing the muscles that surround, support, and move this important joint. These muscles include the temporalis muscles (felt on the side of the head), the masseter muscles (felt in the cheeks), the digastric muscles (felt at the top of the neck below the mandible), and the pterygoid muscles (only felt from inside the mouth). These muscles are responsible for opening and closing the mouth for all actions that require mouth movement. With TMJD, these muscles are always tight and irritated, usually because it is a problem that develops over time.
In our office, there are different options for addressing the muscular component of TMJD. Our doctors have received advanced training in the proper release of these muscles, and often will work with these patients themselves to release tension and irritation to these muscles. The Springfield Wellness Center also has massage therapists on staff who work to alleviate tension in these muscles and allow for better jaw mobility and function. The muscles are arguably one of the most important aspects of what makes TMJD such a difficult condition for people, so it is essential to properly care for and address this element.
Deep Tissue Laser | Springfield, IL
When a temporomandibular joint is not functioning properly, there is usually inflammation that is the result of damage being done to the joint surfaces and the disc that sits between the mandible and temporal bone. Inflammation is very irritating to nerves, and this can be a contributing factor of the pain caused by TMJD. Therefore, it is important to address this inflammation in a way that will also help the joint heal. Traditionally, ice is the usual go-to for inflammation, but ice merely pushes inflammation away without helping the joint heal.
At the Springfield Wellness Center, we use advanced technology in the form of Deep Tissue Laser to not only decrease inflammation in the TMJ but also to accelerate the healing process. Deep Tissue Laser uses red light energy that penetrates deep into tissue down to the cellular level. It stimulates energy production in the cell, which is then utilized by the body to heal the damaged joint and disc while also decreasing inflammation around the site. Laser is a quick treatment (around 5 minutes) and is completely painless. All that is felt is a gentle warming sensation that can be soothing to the achy muscles surrounding the TMJ. If you have tried other treatments for TMJ and have not had success, Deep Tissue Laser may be the missing piece of the puzzle for you.
One element that often gets overlooked in treating TMJD is the lifestyle element. Specifically, how is what we are eating or drinking helping or hurting the situation? Remember, the TMJ is the main joint involved in chewing food. There are certain foods that, although they taste good, are barriers to allowing your TMJD to properly heal. First, foods that are very chewy need to be avoided. This would include foods such as steak or beef jerky. These foods require a lot of chewing in order to properly break down the food, and this causes a lot of tension and fatigue in the TMJ muscles. Choosing softer foods would be best during treatment.
Other food items to avoid would be things like hard candy or chewing gum. Hard candy requires a lot of force to break the piece of candy, and this has been known to exacerbate TMJ problems. Chewing gum is one of the worst things you can do because it is constant, repetitive stress being applied to the joints themselves as well as the muscles moving the joint. Finally, caffeinated beverages should be limited because caffeine is a stimulant that can increase muscle tension, which can negatively affect the TMJs. Overall, being mindful of what you eat can accelerate your healing from this painful condition.
Common TMJD Symptoms
Perhaps the most common symptom of temporomandibular joint dysfunction is jaw pain. It typically presents as a deep ache in the TMJ and also can be felt as ear pain and/or facial pain as well. Because the TMJs move so frequently for different actions such as chewing, talking, and laughing, TMJ pain is usually very constant. The unrelenting nature of it tends to be what makes it so difficult for people to deal with.
So, what can cause jaw pain? There are quite a few possibilities, but some tend to occur more frequently than others. One example would be recent dental work. A trip to the dentist often requires holding your mouth open for long periods of time. This puts a lot of stress on the TMJs and the muscles around each joint. Another common example is trauma, such as a motor vehicle accident. When these occur, it is impossible to predict what kind of injuries will happen, but it is common for the jaw to sustain damage. If you are experiencing jaw pain, it is quite likely to be a symptom of a greater problem such as TMJD.
Another common occurrence that indicates dysfunction of the temporomandibular joint is jaw clicking or jaw popping. These terms reference the audible sound that accompanies jaw movement with the mouth opening or closing. It is possible to also experience pain with clicking or popping, but it is not always the case. Some people exclusively experience the clicking or popping, and for them it is more of an annoying nuisance than anything.
The primary reason jaw clicking or popping occurs is due to jaw movement into a displaced disc. If the disc is displaced too far forward, mouth opening and closing movements will cause the mandible to contact the disc, which creates the audible sound. In order to address this problem, the disc must return to its correct position between the mandible and temporal bones so that the TMJ can move smoothly and properly.
In more serious circumstances, sometimes the TMJ articular disc will displace so far forward that it blocks the mandible from moving forward and fully opening. This essentially “locks” the jaw and prevents proper range of motion. This can be very painful and have a profound impact on a person’s quality of life. It becomes very difficult and uncomfortable to eat, chew, talk, laugh, and more.
The first step to addressing a locked jaw is to help the muscles relax. Heat and gentle massage techniques can ease the muscle tension that provides additional restriction to joint movement. Once the muscles are relaxed, they can help bring the joint and disc back into alignment. When the joint finds its normal position, it can resume functioning as a normal TMJ.
It’s fair to say that everyone has clenched their jaw at some point in their lives. For some people, however, it is a chronic issue that has led to a more serious problem such as TMJD. There are many reasons why people clench their jaw, or in other words, bite their teeth together with excessive force. Stress and anxiety tend to be two of the most common causes, and many times people don’t even realize that they are clenching their jaw. In fact, it can even happen while you are asleep, which can lead to discomfort the following morning.
Prolonged clenching of the jaw causes excess muscle tension and adhesions to develop in the muscles surrounding the TMJ. Over time, this tension becomes more and more problematic and can even cause things like tension headaches in addition to TMJD discomfort. Stress-relieving practices such as yoga and meditation are highly recommended to help reduce daily life stress. This can lead to decreased jaw clenching, and in turn, less discomfort in the TMJs.
It can be immensely frustrating to not be able to enjoy certain savory foods such as a nice steak. For those who have difficulty chewing due to TMJD, however, this is the unfortunate norm. With so much built up muscle tension in the muscles around the TMJ, it makes these muscles fatigue a lot quicker, making it nearly impossible to properly chew food like steak in order to be adequately digested. Not being able to chew food properly can have a serious impact on a person’s quality of life.
If you are having difficulty chewing your food, the underlying cause of this problem must be addressed. If it is a muscle issue, then the muscle tension needs to be alleviated so that your TMJs can have the proper range of motion and muscle tone. If it is due to a locked jaw, then the jaw must be properly aligned before normal chewing function can be restored. The Springfield Wellness Center has the best chiropractors in the Springfield area to help address your TMJD problems naturally.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can chiropractic in Springfield, IL help with TMJ?
Absolutely. At the Springfield Wellness Center, our chiropractors have received advanced training in the diagnosis, treatment, and management of all types of TMJ disorders. They have achieved fantastic results for people who have been told that they just have to deal with their problem for the rest of their life. If you are experiencing TMJ dysfunction, they are ready to help you.
How do you permanently fix TMJ?
The best way to fix a TMJ problem is to restore the temporomandibular joints to their normal range of motion and ensure that the muscles surrounding the TMJ are balanced in strength and flexibility. This is ideal. However, things can happen in life that are out of one’s control that can lead to issues recurring, such as a trauma like a car accident. Events like this can cause the recurrence of a previous TMJ problem, but the same treatment protocols should be put in place to ensure a swift return to optimal TMJ function.
Can chiropractors crack jaws?
Chiropractors are able to safely manipulate the temporomandibular joint to improve range of motion and decrease pain. The chiropractors at The Springfield Wellness Center use a device called an Arthrostim, which uses a gentle impulse movement to help adjust the joint. This has been proven to be more comfortable for patients and just as effective, if not more effective, as traditional chiropractic adjusting protocols for the TMJ.
What happens if TMJ is left untreated?
Like any problem in the body that is not addressed, it will continue to worsen. This will present in the form of continued muscle tightness to the point where the jaw may lock and be difficult to move. Associated conditions such as headaches, neck pain, ear pain, and face pain become more likely to happen as well. Remember, pain is your body’s way of telling you something is wrong. It must not be ignored. If you are having TMJ pain, today is the day to do something about it.
Can you fix TMJ without surgery?
Definitely. Using the right muscle and manipulation techniques, most cases of TMJ can be corrected conservatively without the use of medications, injections, or surgery. As always, there are cases where these are indeed necessary. The majority of cases, however, are able to be significantly improved through natural, conservative treatment measures. The Springfield Wellness Center chiropractors have the experience and training background to make relief from TMJ dysfunction a reality for you.