Your temporomandibular joints (TMJ) are found on each side of your face where the lower jaw meets your skull. This joint moves like a hinge so that you can open and close your mouth. It also has a unique sliding motion that lets the jaw move from side to side.
TMJ disorder refers to any type of dysfunction or pain that involves one or both of the joints. The pain or problem may be in the muscles or connective tissues that support the joint or come from an issue that affects the bone. A TMJ disorder can become a chronic condition that causes persistent pain.
TMJ can develop when the upper and lower jaw bones aren’t in the proper alignment. The problem may also develop if you clench your teeth or following a trauma that affects your jaw. In some cases, arthritis in the joint causes the pain.
TMJ also develops from tense or knotted muscles in the face, head, and neck. You may also experience pain in the jaw if a nerve in the upper spine is pinched.
You may notice a clicking sound when you open and close your mouth, but that doesn’t always mean you have a TMJ problem. You’re more likely to experience the most common symptom – pain. These are the different types of pain that develop, as well as other possible symptoms:
Pain that’s felt in the temporomandibular joint can originate from anywhere in the head, face, neck, and teeth. For example, pain from a knotted muscle in your neck may be referred to the jaw and experienced as TMJ pain. Or your TMJ pain may originate in the spine when nerves that go to the face are pinched.
The team at MultiCare Medical Group assesses the underlying cause of your TMJ pain through a physical exam and X-rays, if necessary, to visualize your facial structure. Chiropractic treatment to relieve tension in the jaw and neck, to relax knotted muscles, and to realign the spine helps relieve the pain, whether it’s referred pain or originates in the jaw.
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