Chiropractic care for the treatment of your TMJ joint can ease pain by correcting the misalignment between your spine and nervous system. Chiropractic care can be effective at reducing your pain associated with your TMJ, either when used alone or as a complement to other treatments. This is because, rather than changing your diet or modifying your teeth; it relaxes your muscles, adjusts your joints and uses specific trigger points to accurately re-position your jaw. When done successfully, this will not only relieve your pain in the short run, but it can help prevent your TMJ pain from returning.
Chiropractic treatment of the TMJ joint focuses on relieving tension in the muscles around the joints themselves, using trigger point therapy. (A trigger point is a very sensitive area made of muscle fibers. Trigger points feel like knots and may cause pain or even a twitching response when pressure is applied to them.)
In some cases, misalignment of the jaw that results from improper posture or a back problem can cause your TMJ joint disorder. An approach to treating TMJ caused by misalignment in your neck and upper back is to perform chiropractic adjustments on your spinal joints in these areas. In addition, trigger point therapy is used to relieve tight muscles in the back around your spine. This reduces the amount of stress put on your jaw so that other treatments to adjust your jaw will be more effective.
When these treatments are employed, motion of your jaw joint can improve and your symptoms such as: ear pain, jaw locking, headaches and neck pain can be reduced.
You may also find relief with some or all of the following therapies:
Moist Heat: Moist heat from a heat pack or a hot water bottle wrapped in a warm, moist towel can improve function and reduce pain. Be careful to avoid burning yourself when using heat.
Ice: Ice packs can decrease inflammation and also numb pain and promote healing. Do not place an ice pack directly on your skin. Keep the pack wrapped in a clean cloth while you are using it. Do not use an ice pack for more than 10 – 15 minutes.
Soft Diet: Soft or blended foods allow the jaw to rest temporarily. Remember to avoid hard, crunchy, and chewy foods. Do not stretch your mouth to accommodate such foods as corn on the cob, apples, or whole fruits.
Jaw Exercises: Slow, gentle jaw exercises may help increase jaw mobility.
Relaxation Techniques: Relaxation and guided imagery can be helpful in dealing with the pain that accompanies TMJ dysfunction. Deep, slow breathing enhances relaxation and modulates pain sensations. Some have found yoga, massage and meditation helpful in reducing stress and aiding relaxation.
Side Sleeping: Sleep on your side using pillow support between shoulder and neck.
Relax Facial Muscles: Make a concerted effort to relax your lips, and keep teeth apart.
Yawning: Use your fist to support your chin as you yawn to prevent damage to the joint and to prevent your jaw from locking open.
In addition, you should avoid:
Cradling the telephone–this may irritate jaw and neck muscles
Anesthesia, which can affect mouth opening and damage joint
Long dental appointments requiring an open mouth for more than thirty minutes.