Addressing TMJ - Temporo-Mandibular Joint Problems in Shelburne VT
Among the areas of the body that Shelburne VT chiropractors are able to help, many people are surprised to learn that the jaw is on the list. It’s easy to associate back pain and neck pain with chiropractic care, but people who suffer from TMJ or Temporomandibular Joint Disorder in Shelburne can also find relief.
A recent study found that about 11-12 million adults in the United States had pain in the region of the temporomandibular joint. Some estimates say 3 out of 4 people in US have TMJ Disorder making it one of the most common musculoskeletal disorders, second only to back pain.
What Is TMJ in Shelburne VT?
Temporomandibular Joint Disorder refers to a group of conditions that affect the temporomandibular joint in the jaw. This joint connects your jaw to your skull, so it stands to reason that if you have issues with the muscles or ligaments that control its movement you may experience problems.
Some common symptoms of TMJ include pain in your jaw, cheek, teeth or front of the ear when you chew or yawn, clicking noises in the jaw, an inability to open your mouth wide or having your jaw lock when you are able to open it. You also may notice that your upper and lower teeth no longer fit together properly when you close your mouth. TMJ pain can spread to the face or neck and can lead to DJD Degenerative Joint Disease of the TMJ. Some patients experience headaches, hearing issues, dizziness, ear ringing or earaches as part of Temporomandibular Joint Disorder.
Causes of TMJ
TMJ has a myriad of potential causes that your Shelburne chiropractors will explore when you book your appointment. Some of the known causes of TMJ include serious jaw trauma with dislocation or displacement of the disc, and degenerative joint disease, like arthritis, each causing an internal joint disorder. Sitting in a dentist’s chair for long periods of time with your mouth wide open, or even physical or emotional stress are additional factors. The emotional stress doesn’t end up causing TMJ on its own, but if you tend to clench your teeth as a result, this may end up causing it. Statistics show that women are four times as likely to suffer from TMJ as men, especially in women between 35 and 44 years old.
TMJ issues have become more prevalent since the pandemic along with teeth grinding due to the increased isolation stress, and mask use that alters breathing. Increased use of antidepressant medication is linked to increased bruxism, another name for grinding teeth. Others have amplified pain levels from mere excitation or sensitization caused by the combination of anxiety, depression, insomnia, lack of exercise, poor diet, and excessive work hours which may predispose to this neuropathic pain condition.
Conventional Treatments for TMJ to Manage the Pain
The most common approaches for dealing with TMJ are to simply manage the pain such as eating softer foods, avoiding caffeine, and using ice or heat. Others find relief with soft tissue massage, jaw stretches and exercises.
Some resort to first, NSAID’s (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, like Advil and ibuprofen) which can lead to kidney and liver failure and digestive tract bleeding. When that fails, prescription medications such as: anti-anxiety medications, anti-depressants, anti-seizure medications, and even opioids that can lead to worse side effects and addiction problems.
Some have tried Botox: injecting botulism toxin to reduce muscle spasm and pain however current research is not showing very promising results for TMJ.
What about night guards or splints? Again, not much evidence that they help TMJ pain and some can increase the pain and interfere with sleep.
Those who are desperate have hoped that surgeries for the muscles and occlusional treatments to modify the teeth or bite would solve their problem. Now it is clear there is no evidence of misaligned teeth being the cause of TMJ problems and trying to change the bite can make things worse.
How We Address TMJ Pain in Shelburne, VT?
Over 38 years we have helped more than 10K people get their health back and folks concerned with TMJ issues have been among them. When we find someone has a TMJ dysfunction, our goal is to not only help their body improve function and reduce pain, but also prevent any further progression, and provide long term stabilization.
Identifying the cause is the first step to understanding if we can help. We conduct a thorough consultation where we really listen to what your concerns are, what you have noticed, what you think might be going on and then we become detectives where we uncover all the factors that have accumulated over time to land you where you are right now. TMJ problems often run in families. There may be learned family postural patterns that are perpetuated.
Next, we will get our hands on your jaw and neck with a comprehensive functional, orthopedic and neurological exam and your body will tell us some things and combined, these will help us determine which additional tests we need to run to get the full picture of what’s going on. We will palpate each individual vertebra to assess its alignment and the curves in the spine as well as conducting a detailed functional leg length analysis that can indicate imbalances in the top of the spine.
There are seven tools we may use to fully understand what is going on and if we can help.
- We will use brain-based testing to see if you have distorted or imbalanced brain patterns that are a factor that is driving the TMJ dysfunction. Kinesiology assessments of the Masseter, temporalis, pterygoid muscles that are involved with TMJ motion add more insight into the cause of chronic problems.
- We may use surface electromyography (sEMG) to identify imbalanced muscle patterns and dysponesis. Dysponesis is a reversible pathophysiologic state where neurophysiologic reactions consist of covert errors in energy expenditure. Essentially it is describing dis-ease and inappropriate and inefficient adaptation to the stresses one is encountering. These errors can drive the hypotonicity on one side and at the same time drive the hypertonicity on the opposite side setting up a persistent unbalanced pattern.
- Rolling Thermography (RT) can be used to identify dysautonomia, a state of dysregulation of the nerves that control your organs, blood vessels and glands including those up into the head.
- Heart Rate Variability (HRV) identifies specific stress patterns that are perpetuating the problem.
- Digital Range of Motion (ROM) is used to highlight which areas have fixations and dyskinesia, an abnormality in performing voluntary muscle movements. We will also assess opening and closing of the mouth and for lateral deviation to determine TMJ mobility issues.
- Digital Posture Analysis is used to identify altered proprioception, the inability to sense the precise position, location, orientation and movement of the body and its parts.
- Digital X-rays: X-rays are invaluable to see inside and to rule out congenital or traumatic alterations and to assess if any degenerative conditions have begun. We can refer you to a local facility to obtain the views needed.
Some other factors may also be used to complete the picture, such as nutritional assessments, sleep and postural habits, and functional biomechanics analysis.
Once we confirm that you do have a TMJ dysfunction, you’ll be given a care plan based on the specifics of your situation. Our team at Wellspring Chiropractic Lifestyle Center wants to get to the cause of your problem so every angle is explored before a thorough plan is created. Usually, a care plan for TMJ will include chiropractic adjustments, special exercises, and possibly heat or ice to lessen pain if it is particularly painful. We may make diet and supplement recommendations as well when appropriate.
Understanding what a crucial role the TMJ plays in your overall health is key when looking for the best long-term solutions to TMJ issues. Many are not aware of the significant role the TMJ plays in keeping your brain oriented to where your body is in space.
Neurologically, the brain uses a sense called proprioception, or knowing where the body is in space, to keep everything moving right. If the brain gets vague or distorted proprioceptive messages, then the altered signaling can lead to a loss of proper alignment that perpetuates TMJ issues and even scoliotic curves in the spine.
Like the Sacro-iliac joints located at the bottom of your spine, the temporo-mandibular joints are the richest joints for proprioception giving the brain the most detailed feedback of where the body is in space.
With TMJ concerns we will be looking at both the jaw alignment itself as well as the part of the spine where the nerves come out that control TMJ function. Kind of like going to the fuse box when you notice an entire room has lost its power.
Chiropractic care at Wellspring Chiropractic Lifestyle Center in Shelburne focuses on identifying and correcting vertebral subluxations, without drugs or surgery, restoring healthy normal spinal function and preventing degenerative disc disease. When the brain gets accurate proprioceptive messages telling it exactly where the body is in space, it has the best chance of controlling the muscles that move the bones so they can be moved into proper alignment to reduce and even eliminate TMJ issues.
Correcting spinal subluxations clears the distorted messaging to the brain and updates it to a more accurate neural self-image. Chronic TMJ issues are a classic example of a distorted neural self-image. If you want a healthy body, you need a healthy nervous system, and if you want a healthy nervous system, you need a healthy spine. Who checks your spine?
Most of the time the body is able to heal itself with just a little direction. Take a look at this video to see Dr. Rice’s light-touch approach to chiropractic in action!
TMJ pain has been on the rise the last couple of years and it’s not hard to figure out why. Stress, anxiety, depression, poor diet, sedentary lifestyle, and insomnia are all major causes of TMJ problems, and we’ve been experiencing these in droves in the past few years. Being able to better manage our stress, a hot topic for many, will also help us to better heal our TMJ issues.
Prayer, Meditation, Belly Breathing, Emotional Freedom Technique… are just some of the ways that we encourage our patients to ease their stresses and find some TMJ relief.
Other ways to address mental / emotional stresses are with quiet time in nature and getting good sleep.
Massage Therapy and/or Soft Tissue Work
A great addition to chiropractic adjustments is soft tissue work.
Besides massaging the TMJ muscles, including the Masseter, temporalis, and pterygoid inside the mouth, there are stretches to improve range of motion in the jaw. We can customize a plan for you with our trainer based on your functional assessment.
There are also a few exercises for you to try at home to help relieve TMJ pain so you can get back to doing the things you love. These exercises will help with range of motion as well as strengthen the muscles that stabilize the jaw joint for some much-needed TMJ pain relief.
The Role of Posture in TMJ
Believe it or not, posture affects how the jaw functions. This is why patients with concussions or whiplash injuries often experience TMJ pain as well.
This news should also be a wakeup call for those of us that have our noses buried in our computers or phones scrolling and swiping all day. When our head shifts forward, out of its natural positioning, abnormal stress is placed on the back of the neck, head, and jaw as the dynamics of gravity change. This forward head posture also causes more misalignments in the upper cervical spine which houses the nerves that control the jaw.
Focusing on our posture, and the nerves and the muscles in the back of the neck that control the jaw is an excellent TMJ strategy. In fact, after a cervical adjustment, patients may feel instant TMJ relief.
Benefits of Chiropractic Care for TMJD in Shelburne
- Reduces Jaw Pain
- Reduces Jaw Popping/Clicking. Although this can cause pain, it doesn’t always. Sometimes is just an annoying occurrence. It occurs when the disc is displaced forward and is not between the bony joint surfaces where it should be. Opening and closing of the mouth causes the click or pop as the mandible contacts the displaced disc.
- Releases Jaw Locking. If the disc is completely displaced forward, it prevents the mandible from translating forward to fully open the mouth causing painful and limiting motion and can dramatically decrease quality of life.
- Reduces Jaw Clenching. This can be caused by excess stress, anxiety, etc. and causes tightness and adhesions to develop in muscles around TMJ which contributes to conditions like tension headaches. Practicing yoga, meditation, or other stress-relieving techniques can help decrease clenching
- Reduces Difficulty Chewing. Whether from pain or limited motion due to joint dysfunction or disc displacement, it means not being able to enjoy certain foods and can be due to jaw locking or excessive muscle tension built up over time. The solution is in addressing the underlying cause (joint dysfunction, muscle hypertonicity).
If you have any of the symptoms of TMJ, schedule a consultation with a chiropractor as soon as possible. It’s also important that you follow any advice or recommendations given during that consultation and subsequent appointments. Every exercise and treatment is designed to remove the underlying cause of the problem and restore your jaw function back to normal.
At Wellspring Chiropractic Lifestyle Center our team is here to help answer your questions. Please feel free to contact us today.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can Chiropractic in Shelburne help with TMJ?
Although you might think chiropractic is for neck and back pain, we help many folks who suffer with TMJ problems because we uncover and address the underlying cause.
How do you permanently fix TMJ?
Addressing the underlying cause is the only way to bring long-lasting results. We will find out what that is and address the most recent stress patterns, correct the old damage and train you on how to stop recreating it to prevent problems in the future.
What causes TMJ to flare up?
Most TMJ flares ups are due to eating foods that are difficult to chew, stress, grinding teeth during sleep or even poor posture.
What happens if TMJ is left untreated?
If left untreated, TMJ issues can lead to degeneration in the joint, causing permanent damage. Addressing the problem as early as possible yields the best results.
What is a chiropractic adjustment for TMJ like in Shelburne?
At Wellspring Chiropractic Lifestyle Center, we are known for our gentle light touch approach and addressing the TMJ is no different. Light contacts help the brain to find old patterns of stored tension and integrate them to allow for optimized function. Working with the cervical spine (neck) also is important, if nerve interference there is impairing the brain’s ability to run the TMJ joints properly.
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