Clicking and Pain and Headaches, Oh My!

A Conservative Approach to TMJ Problems

The TMJ is the joint between the jaw or mandible and the skull, specifically the temporal bone (hence temporomandibular joint). It is a very mobile joint, not only providing rotation but also gliding motion during mouth opening and closing. It is used every time we chew, talk, or even swallow. Its anatomy as well as movements are very complex and very often become dysfunctional. This dysfunction can cause pain in the jaw or face, popping or clicking during chewing, limitation of jaw movement, and even headaches/migraines.

The conservative approach taken to temporomandibular dysfunction at In Motion Spine & Joint Center consists of a detailed examination of the joint and its function, as well as function of the upper cervical (neck) spine and head/neck posture, due to their direct relationship. Treatment focuses on first releasing the tension of the proper soft tissues, in some cases mobilizing the jaw or manipulating the neck, and then teaching the patient how to retrain proper jaw motion with rehabilitation exercises. Following treatment, very small lifestyle changes must be implemented to avoid further injury to this joint. The goal of treatment is to restore proper function of the joint and stabilize its motion.

Some cases of TMJ dysfunction may require consult with a dentist for fitting of an orthopedic appliance, and still some cases may require surgery if joint derangement or pathology is present. However, specific, prior testing should be performed on each patient to rule in or out the need for non-conservative treatment. The current literature suggests that a brief trial of conservative care should be tried even before probable arthroscopic or microsurgery cases.

There is hope for a clicking jaw, painful joint, or headaches even if a patient has been dealing with the problem for years.

For more information information about TMJ dysfunction or treatment options, please contact In Motion Spine and Joint Center at (615) 302-4747.