My sister, Sylvia, was recently diagnosed with TMJ. If you have ever had a temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD or TMJ for short), it certainly can be a life-changing problem. In mild cases, simply biting down hard on food can result in sharp pain through one or both jaw joints. In severe cases, like what Sylvia has, even regular eating and talking can cause extreme pain and discomfort. Fortunately, she hasn’t gotten to the point where she has difficulty opening here mouth more than 1 to 5 cm. Imagine trying to eat just about anything when you have difficulty opening much more than a few centimeters.
Does this sound familiar to you or someone you know? Other TMJ symptoms include:
- A jaw that locks or has limited movement
- Pain in the chewing muscles of the jaw and cheek or jaw joint itself
- Pain in the neck, or face
- Stiff jaw muscles
- Painful clicking, popping, or grating in the jaw joint
There are a variety of health professionals you can approach to tackle this problem. Like my sister, usually most people first see their dentist regarding TMJ issues especially those who experience popping, clicking, or pain in the jaw joint. If you’ve seen a dentist, you may have come away with a night splint to wear during sleep to help you prevent teeth grinding which often contributes to the TMJ problem. My brother-in-law agrees, Sylvia is indeed a grinder. Plus she works in a high stress downtown law office, and stress is also correlated with the development of TMJ problems. Maybe because they subconsciously grind their teeth even through the day when their stress levels peak.
Further to this, a large majority of temporomandibular joint problems result from jaw muscle tension and spasms while just a small proportion of cases are actually due to physical problems with the joint itself like a slipped disc, sprained ligaments, arthritic processes, etc.
At Meridian Spine + Sport, we have a couple of non-surgical treatment options for TMJ.
- We have a specific ACUPUNCTURE protocol that works to relieve pain and more importantly, help relax tense muscles of the jaw, cheek and head.
- For those who are adverse to needles or for those whom acupuncture did not help, we also use BIOFLEX low intensity laser therapy to reduce inflammation, pain, relax muscles and restore damaged/torn TMJ cartilage
- Many patients have also experienced significant pain and functional improvement with intraoral massage of the jaw muscles by our registered massage therapists
The vast majority of TMJ cases will not require surgical intervention and experts say it is important to try non-surgical therapies before resorting to surgery or other treatments that result in permanent changes to the jaw or teeth.
Give us a call at the clinic if you wish to speak with one of us to see how we can help! It’s a bit too far for my sister to drive from the far east end of Scarborough up to our Richmond Hill clinic so I’ll be looking for a colleague to help her out closer to home.