How Can Chiropractic Help the Temporomandibular joint (TMJ)?
Chiropractic care for the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) can ease pain by correcting the misalignment between the spine and nervous system. Chiropractic can be effective at reducing the pain associated with TMJ, either when used alone or as a complement to other treatments. This is because, rather than change the diet or modify the teeth, it relaxes the muscles, adjusts the joint and uses specific trigger points to accurately re-position the jaw. When done successfully, this will not only relieve pain in the short run (as would medications or eating soft foods), but it will help prevent TMJ pain from returning. Chiropractic treatment of the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) focuses on relieving tension in the muscles around the joints themselves—working both outside and inside the mouth, using massage and trigger point therapy. A trigger point is a very sensitive area made of muscle fibers. Trigger points feel like knots and may cause pain or even a twitching response when pressure is applied to them. A chiropractor can manipulate trigger points in such a way to alleviate the pain associated with them. Adjustments to the joints can also be done by hand, using a technique that causes a tiny stretch inside the joint to release any fibrous attachments made by the body due to previous trauma. The chiropractor may also give the patient home exercises to help strengthen the joint and loosen the tight muscles. In some cases, misalignment of the jaw that results from improper posture or a back problem can cause temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder. An approach to treating TMJ caused by misalignment in the neck and upper back is to perform chiropractic adjustments on the spinal joint in these areas. In addition, a chiropractor may use massage to relieve tight muscles in the back around the spine. This reduces the amount of stress put on the jaw so that other treatments to adjust the jaw will be more effective. When these treatments are employed, motion of the jaw joint can improve and symptoms such as ear pain, jaw locking, headaches, and neck pain can be reduced.
References Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics 2003 Sep;26(7):421-5. Journal of Orofacial Pain. 2003 Summer;17(3):224-36.