Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) pain can strike at any time and may mimic a bad toothache or headache. In severe cases, it is a chronic condition that turns even the most basic tasks, such as talking or eating, into an excruciating experience. When the debilitating pain does not respond to conventional treatments such as pain medications, a person may feel like he or she will never be able to regain quality of life.
What exactly is this condition with an unpronounceable name? TMJ disorders are defined as a group of problems that cause pain and poor function in the jaw joint and the muscles responsible for jaw movement. TMJ symptoms can include pressure or pain around:
- the eyes, cheeks or face
- the back or base of the skull
- the jaw joint(s), upper shoulders or upper neck.
Additional symptoms of TMJ issues include:
- headache, dizziness or stuffiness
- pain or ringing in the ears, called tinnitus
- popping or clicking when opening or closing the mouth
- clenching and grinding the teeth at night or when stressed
- difficulty opening the mouth fully or a jaw that is stuck open
What causes TMJ pain?
Contrary to popular belief, TMJ pain is an orthopedic issue rather than a tooth problem. According to WebMD, the large majority of TMJ disorders stem from jaw muscle problems that cause pain and tightness. Whether it is the result of an accident, whiplash or fall, the good news is that TMJ pain can often be treated and managed with non-surgical means. For this reason, surgery is recommended only as a last-resort treatment in severe cases.
A 2007 study published in the Journal of Dental Research examined 106 patients with severe TMJ pain and limitations due to jaw locking from a permanently displaced disc. Participants were randomly assigned either “medical management” (which included home-based self-care, short-term medications, splints, physical therapy, and visits with health psychologists to help them with relaxation and oral habits), or surgery and medical management. The study found that those who received surgical treatment did not see better results than those were treated non-surgically.
How to treat TMJ pain naturally
Our therapists’ experience has shown that effective treatment of TMJ pain with lasting results requires addressing the entire body structure. Balance of the jaw requires perfect alignment of the structures that the head rests on — the spine, shoulders and neck. As part of this whole-body approach, Clear Passage therapists work to balance key support structures to create a stable foundation. Any disruption in the natural balance of these areas results in a need for the TMJ to compensate, causing pain and dysfunction. Our therapists also treat the jaw itself to improve alignment and range of motion.
The therapists use a protocol of manual therapy techniques to eliminate tightness and restrictions, and increase range of motion, in the TMJ — and throughout the patient’s entire body. This approach enables them to treat TMJ pain naturally, without surgery or drugs.
Want to learn more about our non-surgical, drug-free treatment for TMJ pain? Request a free consultation with an expert therapist.