If you suffer from consistent pain and discomfort in your jaw, you may have a condition known as temporomandibular joint disorder, or TMJ. Each year millions of Americans experience some form of TMJ, a disorder used to describe a multitude of possible conditions that can irritate the jaw joint and muscles as well as the surrounding network of facial nerves. Some common symptoms of TMJ include:
- Jaw pain and irritation
- TM joint discomfort
- Aches or tenderness in or around ears
- Difficulty or pain when chewing
- Throbbing facial muscles
TMJ can even cause “lockjaw,” a condition where an individual struggles to open or close her mouth due to the joint and muscular irritation.
Consult With Your Doctor To Diagnose Your Condition
A wide range of factors including jaw injury, arthritis, and a misaligned bite may potentially cause TMJ. Even long-term teeth grinding can play a role in developing this condition. The first step in treating any prolonged jaw pain is to consult with your physician to determine if TMJ is, in fact, the root cause of your discomfort. Your physician will examine the joint and surrounding muscles, checking for anomalies and inflammation both internally and externally. After your diagnosis, your health care provider can recommend a treatment approach, which may include:
Chiropractors specialize in joint care and treatments, making them an excellent resource to minimize the pain associated with TMJ. Your chiropractor may use a variety of techniques throughout treatment. Spinal manipulative therapy is a common and effective method that can reduce body stresses that may be causing TMJ as well as decrease pain levels. Your practitioner may also use myofascial release to massage the muscles surrounding the jaw to promote pain relief.
Stress can also play a significant role in causing TMJ. Your doctor may suggest practicing relaxation techniques that help manage stress and reduce its impact on your joints.
Elongating movement in the jaw can also help decrease inflammation and tenderness. Your physician, dentist, or chiropractor can suggest several stretches designed to improve mobility throughout the jaw.
As with most physiological conditions, what you eat matters. TMJ sufferers often find that eating softer foods can lessen the overall impact of chewing. Beyond texture alone, there are specific foods that offer specific nutritional benefits that can help fight your symptoms. An anti-inflammatory diet high in dark leafy greens, whole grains, and Omega-3 fats can also help you get your jaw back on track for health.