The terms TMJ or Temporomandibular Joint is referring to the relationship between the Jaw bone (mandible) and temporal bone of the skull. It is a joint similar to those found throughout our bodies made up of bone, muscle, blood vessels, nerves and cartilage. Similarly to the spine, there is an intra-articular disc that acts a cushion for biting and chewing forces.
Irritation of the joint can create clicking, popping or pain in the jaw. There are many potential causes for irritation of the TMJ. More often than not, it is the result of microtrauma like clenching of the jaw or grinding one's teeth as a result of stress. Other times it is the result of a macrotrauma like being the unfortunate recipient of a ‘knuckle sandwich’. Either one of these can cause damage to the cartilaginous disc within the joint as well as muscle tension.
Some signs that you may be experiencing some TMJ irritation are; pain in the jaw, which may radiate to the head or neck, ringing in the ears, clicking, grinding or popping at the joint, lock jaw, restricted movement, and tightness in the jaw muscles. All of these signs are related to irritation or injury of the cartilaginous disc. When the mandible glides and rotates as it opens and closes, it is having to glide over the swollen disc. This creates the popping motion, clicking sound and pain.
The obvious question is, ‘how do I fix my jaw so I can continue to eat?’ The first thing is to decrease the amount of swelling in the joint- this requires avoiding anything that will aggravate it. So avoid opening your mouth to the point that it pops or clicks. Apply heat to the joint to increase blood flow and loosen the muscles. Incorporate softer foods into your diet or cut your food into bite-sized chunks. Increase your Omegs-3 consumption to aid with the inflammation. Manage your stresslevels by creating an evening routine to relax into a deep sleep- This can include journaling about the day, massaging your jaw muscles, and general stretching. Any teeth grinders may want to try sleeping with a mouth guard. Last but definitely not least, get adjusted by an Uper Cervical Chiropractor in Oakland! It’s great for bringing ease to the body and decreasing stress, a well as decreasing neck tension, which is in direct correlation to temporomandibular joint function. Doing all or any one of these things will help your body along the healing process.