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Your Jaw, Pain & Chiropractic Care

The human jaw is a very complex functional unit which is greatly taken for granted. Dysfunction within this complex can be caused by dental problems, structural issues with the jaw, muscular tension, postural abnormalities, or joint restriction. The arrival of pain and dysfucntion within the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) can cause great stress and frustration for sufferers. Often, this problem is combined with headaches, neck and upper back pain.

Firstly, temporomandibular dysfunction (TMD) is a multifactorial condition comprised of jaw pain, asymmetrical movement and joint restriction/abnormal function. This means that addressing only one component is likely to result in continued problems. For example, if underlying dental alignment is a contributory factor, then reducing overlying muscle tension will not produce the desired results. Likewise with other contributory factors such as postural abnormalities and joint dysfunction.

To help understand the relationship between posture and the TMJ, try a simple exercise while reading this. First, round your shoulders and slouch into your seat. You will immediately notice that your head, led by your chin, shifts forward. This is called anterior head carriage. Now, if you were to exagerate this slightly, you would notice an increase in strain or tension felt in the upper neck and jaw. While you are unlikely to sit or walk in this more extreme position, a smaller degree of strain over a longer period of time is still stressful to the muscles and joints surrounding the neck and jaw.

Reducing the abnormal mechanics which place the jaw in a strained position is the goal of manual therapy. This in turn will reduce inflammation and strain, and therefore reduce the painful symptoms.

A recent study assessed the use of intra-oral soft-tissue therapy (working inside the jaw). The researchers found that over a 6 week period subjects receiving manual therapy to the jaw experienced an increase in their range of motion as well as a decrease in the pain they felt day to day. Most importantly, this effect was still felt 1 year later.

Other elements of a TMD treatment plan would help to deal with multifactorial components of the condition. As an example, rehabilitation and postural exercises could help to deal with muscle tone and coordination; acupuncture could help with pain, inflammation and muscular tension; and chiropractic adjustments could help with the mechanical contributions to increased jaw stress.

While TMD can become a very chronic and bothersome condition for some, treatment strategies do exist. The first step is diagnosing the condition and breaking down the abnormal mechanics leading to the painful symptoms. And this, is the best reason to talk with your chiropractor.



Kalamir et al. Intraoral myofascial therapy for chronic myogenous temporomandibular disorder: A randomized controlled trial. Journal of Manipulative & Physiological Therapeutics 2012; 35: 26-37.



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