You wake up one day and you yawn and notice you have pain in your jaw. You notice that over the last few weeks, your jaw has been getting worse and worse. It hurts to open your mouth, speak, chew, turn your head, etc. If you are suffering from such symptoms, you may be developing what’s known as temporomandibular joint pain, also known as “TMJ pain”.
Your TMJ connects your jaw to your skull and allows you mouth to move up and down. The lower jaw bone is called the mandible, and upper part of your jaw, the part that is part of your skull is the maxilla. You can feel this joint by placing your fingers in front of your ears and moving your jaw up and down. There are a few different muscles and tendons that connect the mandible and maxilla together.
You ask, “How does this happen? What are the symptoms? Glad you asked. TMJ pain can be caused by a combination of factors, such as genetics, arthritis, or jaw injury. Additionally, poor posture in the head and neck can lead to neck strain and dysfunction of Some also have jaw pain from clenching or grinding their teeth, but not necessarily all the time. Over time, if injury this injury is not addressed properly the symptoms can include pain in the jaw joint, ear pain, headaches, jaw clicking and popping, locking of jaw joint.
What can I do to avoid this injury? Well there are a few home remedies that can possibly work. For example, avoid chewing gum, do place ice packs to the TMJ, OTC (over the counter NSAIDs) drugs, trying to stretch muscles of the jaw and neck and overall, try to reduce overall stress in your life. Also, eating soft foods and maintaining proper posture throughout the day can help as well.
Let’s say none of these home remedies work. As a more involved approach, you can seek medical treatment such as dental splints, prescription medications and in severe cases surgery. However with these symptoms, you want to make sure you achieve long-term results as conservatively and least invasive as possible. Surgeries can invade the tissue and are often irreversible if complications arise. There have been no long-term clinical trials to study the safety and effectiveness of surgeries of TMJ. Other invasive procedures include implants, stabilization splints, and botox. Implants that replace the bones in the jaw joint may cause pain and permanent jaw damage. Stabilization splints otherwise known as bite guards reduce teeth grinding however do not provide long-term relief to actual joint pain. Botox, in small doses can reduce some health problems and has been approved by the FDA for certain disorders, however TMJ is not apart of that approval because there is not enough conclusive evidence that Botox relieves pain.
So what is the most conservative way to treat your TMJ pain besides home remedies and by invasive means? Seek physical therapy. Physical therapists will evaluate you and determine the best course of action, depending on the severity of the condition. They will work and teach you different yet effective strategies to overcome TMJ. But it is also on you to apply what the therapist teaches you. Applying what you have learned, among most things, makes the process of healing much more optimal.