Updated: Aug 1, 2019
TemporoMandibular Joint Dysfunction (“TMJ” or “TMJD”) is generally a painful or achy situation in the musculature around the jaw and head; there may be a popping sound as the jaw opens. NIH describes 3 categories of TMJ disorder:
1. Myofascial pain involves discomfort or pain in the muscles that control jaw function. 2. Internal derangement of the joint involves a displaced disc, dislocated jaw, or injury to the condyle. 3. Arthritis refers to a group of degenerative/inflammatory joint disorders that can affect the temporomandibular joint.
The pain and discomfort may come and go or vary in intensity. Causal factors are under investigation. Sometimes it is clearly related to a strain or trauma to the joint (i.e.: long dental appointments, or sleeping with pressure on the jaw, or a blow to the jaw or head, or even cheering through a long football game!) Because TMJ is more prevalent in women, there is a possibility that hormonal changes are causal- but more research is needed. STRESS is pretty much a universally agreed factor in TMJD. Another theory is that TMJ disorders are influenced by poor posture causing a strain on a series of muscles ultimately impacting the jaw and the top of the head!
Because of the stress, muscular, myo-fascial, and posture influences, it is suggested by NIH to try natural methods to ease the tension before any permanent “solutions” to Temporal-Mandibular Joint Dysfunction (“TMJ” or “TMJD”).
The National Institute of Dental and Craniofascial Research suggests a number of alternatives to try first.
These suggestions range from using ice, avoiding chewing gum, and eating a soft food diet, to learning to manage stress. They also note that most “permanent” solutions are not successful. Here is a link to the NIH brochure.
Specific techniques, known as “TMJ Massage” just may be the answer to your discomfort- find a knowledgeable practitioner. Teena Johnson, at Soma Therapies, is such a practitioner.
Important features of the jaw are shown in this image (from the NIH brochure above). In a TMJ massage, the muscles of the shoulders, upper arms, and neck will receive attention and there are additional muscles and attachment sites for these that are accessed from inside the mouth. Of course the practitioner will be wearing medical gloves. Ideally, we want comfort when opening and closing the jaw- a popping sound may or may not be eliminated. For best long term results, it is suggested that clients work toward achieving stronger posture. Seek out a Certified Posture Exercise Professional, to help you with that.
Relaxation tools to manage stress include but are not limited to: Increasing Magnesium intake- especially Topically. Soothing music or guided meditation can help to ease the mental chatter and train the brain to relax. Nutritional supplements and herbs may also serve to help provide lost minerals and essential nutrients to manage stress and keep the body functioning.
Massage – TMJ massage AS WELL AS full body massage are helpful adjuncts to your other pain management efforts. Book a TMJ Massage at Soma Therapies (located at 12820 Hillcrest- at LBJ in Dallas, TX)