03 Jun Osteopathy for the Temporomandibular Joint
The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) connects the jaw to the skull and is one of the most used joints in the body. The TMJ is the small joint on either side of the face , in front of the ears. Every time you move your mouth you are using the TMJ. This joint is needed for simply everyday activities such as chewing, talking, or even yawning.
Temporomandibular Dysfunction (TMD) is used to describe any conditions that affect the jaw and its surrounding muscles. TMD can be painful and occurs unexpectedly. With TMD is it difficult to rest the jaw because it is consistently needed for daily functions.
Symptoms of this condition include:
- A clicking or popping sensation when moving the jaw.
- The jaw locking.
- Tenderness in the jaw.
- Difficulty moving the jaw, (thus making it challenging to eat).
- Sinus pain
- Eye pain
- Pain either in front of or inside the ear.
- Tinnitus (ringing sensation in the ears).
- Neck Pain
- Face pain
- Headaches and
There are many reasons why these symptoms can occur. The most common causes are:
- Trauma to the face or directly to the jaw.
- Bad habits such as nail baiting, clenching, grinding your teeth, or excessively chewing
- Inflammation to the joint from condition such as arthritis.
- Psychological, emotionally stress.
- Muscle spasms
- Postural problems that affect the position of your lower jaw.
A simple test can be done to determine whether your temporomandibular joint is the cause of the symptoms you are experiencing. Firstly, you will need to wash your hands. When your hands are clean, straighten your index, middle and ring fingers, so that they are aligned side by side. Try to place your fingers in your mouth, with the index finger against your lower teeth and your ring finger against the edge of the upper teeth. If you are unable to open your mouth wide enough to fit the three fingers, it is highly possible that you have a temporomandibular dysfunction.
Osteopaths are trained to diagnose, treat, and manage temporomandibular dysfunction. Osteopathic therapy should be used as an early treatment when the symptoms of TMD first occur. Osteopathic treatment for TMD is used to relieve pain, reduce the inflammation, and improve the function of the jaw. Osteopathy follows a holistic approach your jaw, neck, head, shoulders, and upper body will also be examined and treated, as these areas can contribute to the symptoms of temporomandibular dysfunction. Your osteopath may use the following techniques as part of your treatment plan; massage, stretching, joint manipulation and mobilisations.
If your TMD is a result of clenching or grinding the teeth a consult with an orthodontist may be needed for further investigation. Stress management techniques can also be used to treat this condition if the symptoms are stress related.
Self-care at home can be done to ease the discomfort of temporomandibular dysfunction. By applying ice to the joint to reduce any swelling, and then applying heat to the jaw to relax the muscles. If needed pain killers and anti-inflammatory medications can be taken to sooth the ache.
Enhance Osteopathy Heidelberg. 2020. Are TMJ and TMD the same?. [online] Available at: <https://www.enhanceosteopathy.com.au/blog/are-tmj-and-tmd-the-same-we-answer-all-your-questions> [Accessed 23 June 2021].
McIntosh, F., 2015. TMJ and jaw problems. [online] Essentialosteopathy.co.uk. Available at: <https://www.essentialosteopathy.co.uk/blog/upper-body/tmj-and-jaw-problems/> [Accessed 23 June 2021].