In the course of the average week at my clinic, I see at least five people complaining of TMJ pain.
TMJ stands for temporomandibular joint.
This is the spot that your jaw bone meets with your skull just underneath your ears.
The complaints will range from acute to chronic.
Some patients will just wake up with pain or immobility of their jaw, or it will be an accumulative response over many weeks or months.
The TMJ is an unusual joint. It is not the ball and socket type of joint that we think of.
Rather, it is a joint that glides having an unusual range of motion.
When one studies the anatomy of the jaw, it becomes apparent that there is a very intimate relationship between the muscles of the jaw and the first three vertebra, or bones of the neck.
If there is an aberration within the first three vertebra of the neck this will, in turn, have a direct effect on the temporomandibular joint and its subsequent range of movement.
Patients will often complain of unusual movement or a lack thereof, pain or the inability to close their mouth entirely.
Often the jaw, its position or inability to move it is more so the sum of the equation, the response of the forces acting upon it and not purely a dysfunction of that joint.
There is a quick test you can do at home if you suffer from jaw pain that may originate in your neck. It is a cursory scan that can indicate if the dysfunction of your jaw is coming from your neck and not just the jaw itself.
Stand in front of a mirror and slowly open and close your jaw.
Observe if it mediates away from the midline, in other words do you see your jaw making a scoot to the side at any point within the range of motion.
Next, put your finger between your collarbones in that soft cavity just above your breastbone.
Take a look at the position of your nose in relationship to that point of your finger.
If it is off to one side or you find that the jaw does not open perfectly straight then the problem may lie within your cervical spine and the muscles coming from it attaching to your jaw.
The treatments for such jaw dysfunction is painless and it only requires a few treatments.
Many patients will state that they are at least 80 per cent better after their first treatment.
Essentially, the treatments is based around establishing symmetry and balance of forces acting on the jaw.
It’s a lot like getting your tires realigned.
Like tires, if your jaw is not tracking properly, it will wear and become inflamed resulting in the dysfunction.
The solution is simple. I was taught this by one of the oldest chiropractors in Canadian history.
He said: “Find it, fix it, leave it alone.” Sage advice, I thought.
Always go to the cause of the problem, not its symptoms.