Did you know that jaw pain in the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is usually a result of damage to the joint itself? Any trauma to the head, neck or jaw can lead to dysfunction and TMJ pain. Frequent causes include obvious injuries, such as sports accidents or car crashes, as well as detrimental habits, mainly gum chewing, teeth clenching, nail biting, sleep grinding, and even holding the phone between your ear and shoulder. The symptoms of TMJ disorder vary from person to person, and can affect one or both joints. The most common TMJ disorder symptoms are clicking or popping of the joint, pain at rest or when chewing, locking of the jaw, unexplained toothaches, headaches, earaches, ringing in the ears, clogged or stuffy ears, and facial or neck pain. Untreated, TMJ disorder will almost always get worse over time as the TMJ suffers further damage, meaning the severity and number of symptoms will increase.
Upper Cervical Chiropractic care directly addresses TMJ pain and dysfunction. The upper two bones of the spine allow your head to pivot side-to-side and up-and-down. When these bones are pulled or knocked out of alignment, they restrict movement and pull the surrounding muscles, especially the muscles that connect your jaw to your skull (your TMJ). Neck problems almost always cause TMJ problems. This means to solve your TMJ pain, you often must address your upper cervical issues first or simultaneously. In addition, upper cervical issues can lead to irritation of the tissues that surround your brain stem. This causes a host of problems, from digestion disorders to muscle pains down to your feet. Your body is an intricately connected system, one vital nexus that impacts your overall health (including your TMJ function) is the upper cervical area.
Treatment is simple, painless, scientifically-grounded, and most importantly, non-traumatic. This is unlike any other care you may have tried before. Dr. Lawlor takes an alternative approach to the crack, pop or head-twist that others may have tried to help you solve your problems. Dr. Lawlor first takes 3D upper cervical 3D x-rays to assess the precise direction and angulation of the problem. Usually the top two bones have slid out of alignment in one direction, pulling the attached muscles and TMJ out of alignment. Dr. Lawlor then calculates the necessary angles and vectors needed to gently nudge those two vertebrae back into their proper positions. This may take several treatments, depending on the severity and duration of your TMJ issue. Over time your muscles adapt to new circumstances, even bad ones, so re-positioning the bones means re-training the muscles. Fortunately, this treatment is finite and effective—and for patients in severe pain, it’s life-changing.
If you have been struggling with TMJ pain and you’re fortunate enough to live in the Bay Area, please call Union Square Upper Cervical Chiropractor Ryan Lawlor at 415-362-3500.