Temporomandibular Joint Disorder Or Pain

Temporomandibular joint disorder affects people of all ages.

This often painful condition may be caused by dental procedures, ill-fitting dentures, braces, malocclusion (over or underbite), bruxism (grinding the teeth), jaw thrusting, old or recent trauma to the head or face, and inflammation or degeneration of the temporomandibular joint.

It may also result from neck and upper back tension caused by poor posture, vertebral misalignment, and trauma to the neck or back, such as whiplash injuries.

Temporomandibular joint disorder causes a great variety of symptoms.

Symptoms include pain or discomfort with chewing, a clicking, popping, or grating (crepitus) sound when opening and closing the mouth, difficulty opening and closing the mouth, ear pain, hearing loss, tinnitus (ringing in the ear), dizziness, and headaches, as well as facial pain or jaw pain.

Some of these symptoms make sense to us, such as the clicking or popping of the joint and the jaw pain.  But why would we experience headaches, ringing in the ear, or dizziness?  These seem to be unrelated symptoms.  Yet they are not…

Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ disorder) affects the entire head.

This joint is formed by the connection between the mandible (lower jaw) and the temporal bone (one of the seven head bones), right in front of the external acoustic meatus (external ear canal) of the ear.

This joint is held together by several ligaments that form various connections between the mandible and the styloid process of the temporal bone, the sphenoid bone, and the malleolus (little hammer).

The malleolus is one of the three ear bones (ossicles) in the middle ear.  These little ear bones transmit sound vibrations from the external ear canal to the inner ear for further processing.

The mandible also has muscular connections to the cheek bones, the temporal bones, and the sphenoid bone.  Cranial osteopaths and craniosacral therapist refer to the sphenoid bone as the master bone because it connects to all of the head (cranial bones) as well as to many of the facial bones.  Read more…

Thus, any type of traction or pressure on this joint may easily be transmitted to the head bones to cause headaches or mental fogginess.  It may also cause facial pain or discomfort, ringing in the ears, as well as dizziness.

Conversely, trauma to the head or face may cause many symptoms, including TMJ disorder.  Read more…

Tempormandibular joint disorder may also result from tense neck muscles.

Two major neck muscles attach to the little bony bulge behind the ear lobe, which is the mastoid process of the temporal bone.  These two muscles are the splenius capitis muscle and the sternocleidomastoid (SCM) muscle.

The splenius capitis muscle in the back of the neck allows us to tilt up our head (extend the head) and helps with turning the head from side to side, as well as bend the head from side to side.

The SCM muscle in the front of the neck, which is very prominent in body builders and football players, attaches to the mastoid process as well but from the front. This muscle, which consists of two bands of muscles, allows us to bend the head forward while turning it to the opposite side.

When either muscle is excessively tight, it creates tension on the mastoid process, potentially pulling the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) out of alignment.  You experience clicking or popping of the joint and pain or discomfort with chewing.

Various treatment options are available.

Conventional treatment options are pain medication (beware of side effects and dependency), a splint worn at night, and dental or surgical procedures to improve the alignment of the upper with the lower jaw.

Feldenkrais therapy is based on re-educating the mind to efficiently use  only those muscles necessary for executing a task; in this case, chewing.

Craniosacral therapy holds much promise in providing relief for the pain and discomfort, as well as for resolving the cause of the TMJ disorder.  It is gentle and noninvasive.

Craniosacral therapy puts the body into a deeply relaxing state where the healing can occur.  It assists the body in releasing all the restrictions in the connective tissue (fascia, ligaments, tendons, etc.) that occur over time due to trauma, inflammation, and infections, as well as wear and tear from chronic muscle tension anywhere in the body, including the jaw.

Until the next natural healing perspective blog…

To Your Health