What is TMJ and why is it so important?
TMJ stands for temporo-mandibular joint, a bilateral joint located just anterior to the tragus of the ear. It is basically the joint between the mandible and the temporal bones and unfortunately is often overlooked when treating many conditions.
Normal function of this joint depends on balance musculature associated with the joint, proper dental occlusion, balanced temporal bones and associated cranial structures, and proper whole body posture with particular focus on the cervical and thoracic regions. So, based on this, there is no wonder how unbalances in any other part of the body can affect the TMJ.
What are the causes of TMJ problems? The following factors might be involved:
- Dental – poor bite, missing teeth, dental surgery, opening of the jaw for a prolonged period, poor fitting or worn out dentures, injuries, whiplash, blow to the head, face or jaw.
- Habitual – poor posture, oral habits (pencil biting, gum chewing, teeth clenching), poor diet and activities which may strain the neck or back.
- Stressful and emotional – life changes, difficulties at work, anger, anxiety, frustration, fear, etc.
What are the symptoms of TMJ disorder?
- Around the jaw – clicking, pain in or around the jaw, clenching and grinding, difficulty opening/closing the jaw, jaw locking open or shut, jaw deviating on opening/closing.
- Around the head – difficulty swallowing, muscle soreness or spasms around the head and neck, ringing in the ears, difficulty hearing, frequent earaches without infection, headaches, sinus pain, pressure behind the eyes, tearing for no reason.
How can TMJ disorder be treated?
It is important to treat all muscles which are directly involved with this joint – masseter, temporalis and pterygoids. This can be achieved by a combination of soft tissue and myofascial release techniques, both on the head and intra-orally. In addition, it is important to check any other imbalances on the body that might be causing or aggravating the TMJ disorder, so your manual therapist should check any other relevant areas, such as your pelvis.
If you suffer from any of these problems and would like to seek some help about it, please get in touch to make an appointment.
Thanks to Myofascial Release UK for providing this information.