Do you have Jaw Pain?
Jaw pain, or pain arising from dysfunction at the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is relatively common place, with 25% of the general population experiencing this problem each year. Interestingly, studies show a strong correlation between those individuals who are experiencing neck pain with those who are experiencing TMJ related pain. In most cases, the cause of TMJ related pain can be caused by two different processes: the first is due to derangement of the disc between the lower jaw, the mandible, and the portion of the skull to which it articulates, or the temporal bone; problems arising from pathologies of the disc generally represent only 3-5% of TMJ related cases; the vast majority of TMJ dysfunctions are due to functional, neuromuscular imbalances of the soft tissues surrounding the joint, which can be treated safely and effectively with active stretching of involved muscles that move the jaw during chewing & speaking, and simple exercises to help retrain the involved muscles.
Pain arising due to derangement of the articular disc between the bones that form the TMJ:
Pain arising due to functional, neuromuscular imbalances of the muscles that move the mandible:
A much more common cause of TMJ related pain is due to imbalances of the 4 primary muscles that move the jaw. Three of these muscles, the temporalis, masseter, and medial pterygoid, are responsible for closing the jaw, only one, the lateral pterygoid, is responsible for opening the jaw. When disc involvement is not indicated, addressing soft tissue lesions in these muscles, as well as focusing on corrective exercises to restore coordinated firing of these muscles provides significant relief to those suffering from TMJ pain. Typical active treatments involve 3-6 sessions of soft tissue mobilization of the muscles surrounding the jaw and cervical spine, adjustments to the cervical spine, and exercises that may seem silly, but are extremely effective at rehabilitating normal coordinated firing of the muscles of mastication and long term treatment of symptoms.
As we touched on briefly, the relation of the position of your cervical spine, or the vertebrae that are located in your neck, as well as overall posture, is directly related to the mobility of the TMJ. Don’t believe me? Try this, flex your chin to your chest, open your mouth as wide as you can, and see how many finger-widths you can open up. Now repeat the same exercise with your head held at a normal position, and then while looking up at the ceiling. Where were you able to open up your mouth the farthest? You should have found the greatest amount of opening while your head was near neutral or extended, as while looking at the ceiling, again, because maximal opening of the TMJ requires adequate cervical spine extension. Whiplash patient’s, or others who have lost extension in the cervical spine will tend to have higher incidences of decreased TMJ mobility, which may or may not be correlated with pain.
Back in Line BLOG
Drs. Nate, CJ, and Hannah will take turns sharing information they stumble across from certain research, publications, or may just post a quick healthy tidbit to keep you motivated to leading a happier, healthier lifestyle!