The global pandemic has affected our health in a myriad of ways, with an overwhelming increase in TMJ pain, headaches and muscle imbalances of the head, neck, face and shoulders.
There has been rise in patients of all ages (young children to our elderly) complaining of pain in their upper backs, necks, jaws. The common denominator, overwhelmingly, has been an increased forward head posture from extended device use, online work/school, and makeshift home offices.
What is TMJ Dysfunction?
The temporomandibular (tem-puh-roe-man-DIB-u-lur) joint (TMJ) acts like a sliding hinge, connecting your jawbone (the mandible) to your skull. You have one joint on each side of your jaw. TMJ dysfunction occurs when the muscles and ligaments around your jaw joints become inflamed, irritated or imbalanced. When this group of jaw-guiding muscles experience tension (from grinding, clenching, postural imbalances), they cause pain in the jaw, face and skull.
TMJD can have a sudden onset or a long-lasting effect; pain may be intermittent or constant, acute or chronic, and mild or severe. By understanding the structures involved in these presentations, it allows a treatment plan to be developed to relieve the tension and stress in the structures around the joint.
How do I know I have TMJ imbalance?
TMJ disorder goes beyond pain in the jaw; the muscle tension and inflammation caused by the imbalance may cause a myriad of symptoms including pain over the jaw, in your face and head, and even in your ears.
Consider TMJ Treatment to address any of these symptoms:
popping, clicking or clunking in the jaw when chewing or opening your mouth
headaches particularly over the temples, or over the back of the skull
An electrical storm or migraine-like headache experience after eating
stuffiness or ringing in the ear, earaches, or inability to tune out sound
dizziness and balance problems; tunnel vision or vertigo
pain in upper back, neck and/or face
tingling or numbness in the fingers
Benefits of TMJD Treatment
Most people do well with conservative therapy, such as manual therapy (massage), resting the jaw or using a fitted appliance. The success of treatment depends on how severe the symptoms are and how well the patient complies with treatment and home-care (exercises).
This therapy can provide a variety of benefits:
Relieves pain and reduces headaches
Supports relaxation and relieves stress
Eases muscle tension and muscle spasm
Restores joint mobility and function
Reduces symptoms of tinnitus, eye fatigue, facial pain and swelling
More efficient healing from clenching and teeth grinding
Improves muscles health, balance and strength
Should I still have massage if I'm seeing a different kind of doctor?
For many that suffer with TMJD, they are working with healthcare practitioners specializing in their particular imbalance:
Orofacial Myofunctional Therapy
Buteyko and Speech Therapies
Chiropractic - specializing in upper cervical spine
For those that are having treatment by another orofacial doctor or dental specialist, massage is a wonderful support to therapy to include in the treatment plan. Massage therapy will help balance the muscles, ligaments and lymphatics that work with or uphold the structures these amazing practitioners are working with, and will aid in quicker healing and easier work for the specialist and the patient. Speak to your specialist about having oromyofunctional massage therapy as part of your treatment plan.
Historically unexplained pain in the area of the TMJ was often dismissed as psychogenic or the creation of someone’s mind. In the 1950's TMJ syndromes began to receive attention from the healthcare community. But it was not until the 1980's that healthcare professionals began to develop an expertise in diagnosis and treatment of the condition. It was the dental community that began examining and seeking to understand TMJD. From this research and practical treatment, they began to uncover some science behind the temporomandibular joint and its role in the complex workings of the face, jaw and neck.
It soon came to light that there was a notable connection between osteopathic, soft tissue and neuro imbalances, and TMJD. From this discovery came the first treatment plans and rather than only providing pain relief, healthcare professionals began to treat the causes of some forms of the condition.
Long term research and ongoing studies continue in this area of dysfunction.