TMJ Dysfunction Can Be A Real Headache
Millions of people suffer needlessly from head, neck, face, and jaw pain as well as headaches. Many medical and dental problems are related to the balance of the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), the facial muscles and the bite of the teeth. Imbalances can result in chronic illnesses causing symptoms of pain in the muscles around the head, face and neck and pain can be referred to other parts of the body. Also, chronic neck problems and poor posture will refer pain to the jaw joint which if not corrected will lead to jaw problems.
Temporomandibular joint dysfunction affects the two joints which connect the jaw bone (mandible) to the skull bone (temporal bone), the discs which separate them and the muscles which perform the movements.
When structural imbalance occurs, one or both joints will pop, click, grate or lock. This sets up irritation in the joints which causes pain. Ongoing pain places you under physical and emotional tension, and so a cycle is established.
Due to the wide variety of symptoms which do not appear to be related to a disorder originating in the jaw joint, the diagnosis becomes a challenge. The most common symptoms in various combinations and intensities are:
- Headaches — dizzy spells
- Face, neck, and shoulder pain
- Limited movement or locking of the jaw
- Numbness in fingers and arms
- Earaches or ear stuffiness
- Pain behind the eyes
- Popping jaw joints when eating and/or yawning
- Pain in and around the jaw joints
Many people who suffer from these dysfunctions have a structural imbalance in their jaw to skull relationship, and an imbalance in the muscles which control the movement and the posture of the muscles. This can be caused by external stress such as car accidents, whiplash injuries, sporting accidents, trauma from a fall, or internal stress like missing or misaligned teeth. It may also be due to long forgotten childhood falls and blows to the head and face.
The treatments include physiotherapy and dentistry. The physiotherapy programs include pain relief modalities, manual techniques to mobilize tight structures, correction of posture, and exercises to stabilize the head and the spine in the corrected position. It will also include an education component. Dentistry may include splinting, replacement of missing teeth, or realignment of teeth.
When the dysfunction is identified and treated early, the cure rate is remarkably high – about 90%.
If it is left undiagnosed and becomes chronic, the cure rate drops drastically, and the patient may attain only partial relief of symptoms following treatment. Early identification and treatment is essential for the immediate and future well-being of each patient.