Chiropractic for TMJ

Chiropractic Treatment for TMJ

         Chiropractic treatment works for TMJ on its own, or in collaboration with other healthcare professionals, such as the patient’s dentist. There are multiple ways that a chiropractor can help remedy TMJ in a patient.  Joint manipulation and specialized tools, exercise and lifestyle can all be used to achieve a beneficial outcome.   It is important that providers look at all areas of possible causes so that the root cause is treated, and not remedied temporarily with something like over-the-counter medications.


Understanding TMJ Disorders


            It is often a misunderstood myth that TMJ is a single dental condition which only affects the teeth and jaw, when in fact, it is a set of medical conditions commonly involving multiple systems in the body and overlapping with other conditions. TMD is the general term encompassing not only temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ), but also facial pain near the jaw joint, jaw pain and clicking, neck pain, shoulder pain, headaches, changes in the teeth, and muscle problems affecting range of motion in the mouth. There are various ways a patient can find themselves with TMJ, and the cause can indicate other issues within the body.


TMJ Causes:
  • Arthritis
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Jaw injury
  • Stress resulting in teeth grinding or clenching
  • Irregular alignment
  • Dental issues such as an abscessed tooth or facial trauma
When taking in patient histories, although the patient may be exhibiting symptoms of TMJ, it is important to always look deeper into their history and symptoms because there are also various conditions that are often mistaken for TMJ.
Due to the location of the temporomandibular joints, conditions often mistaken for TMJ include:
  • Sinus Problems – these types of issues can trigger pain near the temples which can feel like TMJ. This can be caused by structural complications within the sinuses or allergies typically coupled with discharge and fever.
  • Trigeminal Neuralgia – there are 2 trigeminal nerves which control the jaw, and it’s no wonder that problems with these nerves can be mistaken for TMJ. Trigeminal nerve issues cause sharp pain in the teeth, face, and near the ear along with tingling. A vital way to tell the difference between trigeminal neuralgia and TMJ is that the pain of trigeminal neuralgia is often described or characterized as feeling like an electric shock.
  • Headache or Migraine – while headaches are most often pain in the head, they can also begin at the temples or sides of the face radiating out. These are mistaken for TMJ as TMJ can often cause headaches in and of itself.
There are many modalities that are helpful in the treatment of TMJ, and it is important as chiropractic providers, since TMJ is difficult to pinpoint, to work side by side with various providers to give patients a better quality of life.


Chiropractic Treatment & TMJ

            Chiropractic works to ease TMJ symptoms by manipulating the jaw joint to help restore range of motion in the jaw, and release muscle tension. TMJ is often overlooked as something that can be treated with chiropractic because many believe that the main issues that are fixed with chiropractic are neck and back pain. However, treatment for something like TMJ is actually vital to total spine health, and an area of the body chiropractors are familiar with. Advise patients that correcting the misalignment between the nervous system and the spine to improve movement and decrease symptoms are the main goals of TMJ chiropractic treatment.
Chiropractic treatment options for TMJ:
  • Trigger point therapy
  • Activator tool
  • Massage
  • Jaw joint adjustment using small stretches inside the joint to release fibrous attachments made by the body
  • Spinal joint adjustments in the neck and upper back
  • Chiropractic biophysics for postural correction
  • At-home exercises
While treating something like TMJ or jaw pain seems pretty straightforward, there is a lot more to it than that. When treating TMJ, a chiropractor should not only be focusing on the jaw joint itself, but also on the temporalis, masseter, pterygoid, and suboccipital muscles as well as the top 2 vertebrae.
There are also lifestyle changes and exercises that a great to recommend for patients dealing with TMJ.
Lifestyle change suggestions for patients with TMJ:
  • Avoid chewing gum
  • Avoid biting the lower lip
  • Eat a soft diet
  • Avoid biting the nails
  • Correct posture
  • Relax the muscles of the jaw as much as possible
  • Use a hot or cold compress
  • Reduce stress where possible
  • Wear a bite/night guard
Exercises for patients with TMJ:
  • Relaxed jaw
  • Chin tucks
  • Resisted closing of the mouth
  • Resisted opening of the mouth
  • Tongue up
  • Forward jaw movement
  • Side-by-side jaw movement
  • Goldfish exercises both full and partial opening
Chiropractic is a great addition to the treatment plan of patients with TMJ to reach optimal spinal and cervical health.


Analysis of Chiropractic for TMJ

            TMJ is a fairly common issue in the United States encompassing between 5% and 12% of the population, or about 35 million people which could be low due to many going undiagnosed or misdiagnosed. As chiropractic providers, truly understanding the symptoms, causes, and treatments at the patient’s disposal is vital for both providers and patients.  Since there is no single treatment, cause, or cure for TMJ, multiple treatment types would be best to those who are immensely suffering from TMJ in their daily life. Chiropractic treatment can help with TMJ on multiple levels, both with standard manipulation, and with the activator tool according to studies in 2015 and 2003. Thorough history of the patient, and understanding of TMJ as a whole will help to give our patients the most beneficial treatment possible.