Temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJ) involve the major jaw structures in the head that are responsible for motion, most specifically the lower and upper parts of the jaw (mandible and mandibular fossa of the temporal bone). Symptoms of temporomandibular joint disorders involve: pain in the jaw, aches and pains in and around the ear, a locking jaw and difficulty chewing. All of which can make this form of joint disorder debilitating.
TMJ can come about when:
- The joint’s cartilage becomes damaged, most commonly by arthritis
- The disk erodes or moves out of its proper position
- There is a muscle spasm. Tthis can be as a result of jaw clenching, teeth grinding and sleeping disorders
- The joint is damaged by trauma or impact
Sometimes jaw pain appears to be tooth pain. So if your dentist can’t find a problem with your teeth, the issue may lie with your jaw.
How osteopathy can help with jaw pain
The jaw is an incredibly complex joint, and whilst there are a wide range of issues that fall under the umbrella term of ‘temporomandibular joint disorders’, it is most often the inter-articular disc that is the bane of most sufferers’ pain. An osteopath understands the construction of the jaw, and can help address the symptoms of TMJ.
An osteopath will study and work with the structure of the jaw, as well as the head, neck, back and shoulders. Their treatment will involve reflex relaxation of the jaw, which ultimately aims to reduce the symptoms associated with TMJ.
Osteopaths are professionally equipped to treat muscles that may be suffering from regular spasms, and they’re also able to refer you onward to another specialist, should you potentially benefit from such a referral.
Additionally, we’ve found that many dentists don’t believe jaw pain can be treated. If your dentist has said as much, give us a call to see what a difference osteopathy can make.
Tools to help you manage your jaw pain (TMJ)
Whilst TMJ certainly requires treatment from a medical professional, there are steps that you can take at home to help alleviate some of your symptoms. These include:
• Heat treatment when muscles spasm (such as a heat pack applied to the neck for 30 minutes)
• Self-massaging of the jaw
• Stretching of the jaw, as well as the connected structures (such as your neck and back)
• Meditation and other steps toward reducing stress
What to expect during an osteopathy assessment for jaw pain
Your assessment will likely begin with a standing examination of your posture, where your head, neck and spine will be observed. During this stage we will see how the jaw is positioned in relation to the skull, aiming to identify areas of stress and any signs of tension or stretching.
Following this, you may be asked to perform various movements to demonstrate whether there’s anything that’s restricting movement in the cervical spine – something that can often uncover either direct or indirect symptoms of TMJ.
Finally you may be required to move your mouth in all directions as the joint itself is assessed along with the jaw movement.
If you’re experiencing jaw pain, then give us a call on 020 8316 5316 to see how we can help.