Chiropractors… More Than Just Back Doctors: Part 1 – The “TMJ”

Chiropractors, More Than Just Back Doctors
Part 1- The “TMJ”

Did you know that Chiropractors can be the best course of treatment for treatment other the spine? Many people are facing jaw pain, clicking, and possibly limited mouth opening.

The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is located one fingertip-width in front of the auditory meatus, the external opening for the ear. Temporomandibular disorder (TMD) is a common condition arising from one or more of numerous factors, including but not limited to tooth position (orthodontic), muscular tone and harmony, trigger point referrals, cranial compression, damaged or misaligned articular disc, or other intracapsular disorders, such as arthritis or infection and injury by blow. There are many other suspected contributing factors, such as emotional well-being and stress, mineral and hormonal imbalances, nutritional factors, allergies and chemical exposures.

“TMD is characterized by many symptoms that could arise from other ailments, and it therefore has a reputation as an elusive, baffling condition. These symptoms include headache, toothache, burning or tingling sensations in the face, tenderness and swelling on the sides of the face, clicking or popping of the jaw when opening or closing the mouth, reduced range of motion of the mandible, ear pain without infection, hearing changes, dizziness, sinus-type pain and neck pain (Kaplan & Williams 1988, Moles 1989).”

Unfortunately, the majority of treatment for this condition has classically been to place the patient in a splint or bite plate. The theory is to stop teeth grinding and to prevent the muscles from shortening. The problem is that this is either a Band-Aid to the problem and the mouth will adapt to the new position or will offer no help from the start. At their best these devices typically should not be worn for longer than 3 weeks. Appropriate care for this condition varies on symptoms and clinical findings.

What can a chiropractor do? If trained in orofacial problems the chiropractor is able to manually exam the TMJ and determine if the problem is inside the joint or from external causes, or if the patient would need further imaging. Many cases respond the best to manual therapy including soft tissue relaxation techniques and proper cervical, submandible, and masticatory muscle rehabilitation. These techniques relax over-tight muscle and allow for proper jaw tracking as well as decreasing tension in the surrounding muscle such as cervical and upper shoulders. Enabling the patient to address high stress and correcting postural problems can also have enormous impacts on improving.

Ref:
J. (Walker) DeLany, L. Tilley, C. Skaggs, M. K. Ryan Temporomandibular dysfunction. Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies (1997)
1(4), 198–214