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TMJ is Often a Pain in the Neck

Recently, we have had a lot of patients come in who have been suffering from jaw pain. What most people may not realize is that this pain is caused by the clenching and stressed due to the pandemic we are in. Neck pain is another one of the most common reasons people visit chiropractors, but for many of them, the problem is not in the neck at all. It’s in the jaw.

Temporomandibular Joint Syndrome (TMJ,) is a chronic inflammation and painful tightness in the joint connecting the jaw to the skull, and according to the American Dental Association as many as ten million Americans suffer from it.

Symptoms include jaw pain ranging from mild to excruciating, a “clicking” noise when opening and closing the mouth and an inability to fully extend the mouth. Pain from TMJ can make sleeping on the side of your face, chewing certain foods and yawning, among other things, difficult.

One thing you may not know about TMJ is that pain is not always limited to the jaw. TMJ can cause pain that radiates upwards and out leading to aches in the shoulders, head, ear and neck. In fact, it’s estimated that more than half the people with chronic neck pain actually have TMJ.

There are a variety of causes of TMJ, including arthritis and a misalignment of the teeth and jaw due to genetics or injury from an accident. Other causes include teeth grinding and jaw clenching, often due to stress, habitual gum chewing, nutritional deficiencies and cervical alignment issues.

While conventional treatment methods include wearing a mouth splint or night guard, or in some cases having surgery to correct alignment issues, many people find relief with chiropractic.

When muscles in the neck and spine get tight, they can cause or exacerbate TMJ symptoms. Conversely, inflammation and tightness in the jaw often present as neck pain. Chiropractic can reduce tension in both areas by relaxing the muscles in the neck, shoulders and jaw, and adjusting the joint to gently realign the jaw.

In mild cases, regular chiropractic may be all that’s needed to eliminate neck pain, as well as jaw pain, associated with TMJ. In more severe cases, chiropractic can work in conjunction with other treatments or lifestyle modifications to achieve lasting pain relief.

Some of these modifications include:

Making dietary changes. This is often helpful since nutritional deficiencies, particularly of magnesium and calcium, can lead to jaw pain. If this is the case with you, incorporating foods rich in these missing nutrients, such as nuts and seeds, fresh fruits and green veggies, is helpful. In addition, switch to softer, easier to chew foods until you get it worked out.

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