Suffering from jaw pain?
Osteopath Matthew Grantham has completed extensive study in the treatment and management of jaw pain. Jaw pain happens when the TMJ (or temporomandibular joint) becomes dysfunctional, for one reason or another. Individuals commonly complain of difficulty opening and closing their mouths and pain whilst chewing.
A little bit about the jaw….
The jaw bone (or mandible) is the bone which hangs from your skull, creating the lower part of your head. It houses the lower teeth and attaches either side of the head just in front of the ears. Put your fingers just in front of your ears in line with the ear holes, gently open and close your mouth and you will be able to feel movement at these joints. These joints are called the temporo-mandibular joints, or TMJ. Movement at these joints occur when we open and close our mouth during activities such as eating and talking. As well as opening and closing our jaw, we can move it side to side and forwards and backwards!
Movements of the jaw, such as chewing, are controlled by various muscles. Three main muscles close our mouth, and one main muscle aids with opening it. This makes sense when you think about gravity’s effect on the body. We need a bit more help to close our mouth and bite into our food than we do to open it and let it hang.
Problems with the TMJ
TMJ can arise from many structures in and around the jaw joint, including the muscles, joint surfaces and a small disc which sits inside. Muscle imbalances are common and can lead to stiffness or pain (or both) when opening and closing our mouth. Tightness in the surrounding muscles could be a result of clenching when sleeping (known as ‘Bruxism’), trauma to the jaw (like getting a knock to the area playing sport), neck pain and restriction, or from dental problems such as having an uneven bite. Those who are highly stressed are also at an increased risk of having jaw related pain.
The TMJ itself houses a small articular disc. In people experiencing TMJ dysfunction, this disc can often become displaced, leading to common symptoms we often feel and hear, such as clicking, popping or clunking.. In some people, this disc can stay displaced, leading to very limited opening and become quite painful for those affected.
How can Osteopathic treatment help?
It aims to alleviate pain, reduce inflammation and restore function. As TMJ related pain and/or injury is rarely an isolated issue, your jaw, neck, head, shoulders and upper may need to be examined and treated as they can all contribute to your symptoms
Treatment may involve a combination of techniques that include but are not limited to: Intra-oral techniques (treatment inside the mouth), massage, joint manipulation, stretching, joint mobilization or dry needling. Rehabilitation exercises such as stretching and/or strengthening are also often indicated. Additionally, you may be given advice on lifestyle changes, such as posture, and ways to help reduce all that stress in your life.
When your jaw pain is the result of grinding or clenching of teeth (bruxism), provision of a night guard by your dentist can be very useful, not only to relieve muscle tension, but to protect teeth from wearing down and breaking. Anti-inflammatories, muscle relaxants and pain relief may also be prescribed by your doctor alongside other treatment options.
If you have been experiencing jaw pain, don’t put it off any longer. Book a TMJ appointment now to come see Matt…..and prepare to be amazed.