Do you have pain in your jaw? Is it painful to open and close your mouth? Does your jaw make popping or clicking noises? If the answer is “yes” you may be suffering from Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction or better known as TMJ/TMD.
There could be many causes contributing to the onset of TMJ dysfunction. There is a significant association between neck pain and TMJ dysfunction. Up to 50% of neck pain cases will have TMJ dysfunction, often as the primary problem. Our lifestyle tends to put our head/neck in bad posture, which puts stress on the muscles of the neck and head. This leads to the development of trigger points that refer pain to the jaw. The muscles of mastication (chewing) are another group of muscles that can develop trigger points with referral pain to the jaw.
Other causes can be from daily activities some of which are done unconsciously. These things usually include clinching, nail biting, chewing gum, cheek and tongue biting, finger and thumb sucking, and holding objects under chin (telephone, violin). Most people can be unaware they are clenching or are doing so in their sleep unknowingly, this can be significant because an average clenching event is 60% of maximum clenching power.
Sleeping position is another factor that can contribute to TMJ dysfunction. Individuals that sleep on their stomach or back are at increased risk. Individuals that sleep on their backs are more likely to clench then individuals that sleep on their side. While stomach sleepers tend to put their necks in compromised positions.
Strategies to Help Prevent TMJ Dysfunction
One of the most important things to do when dealing with TMJ dysfunction and helping to prevent TMJ dysfunction is becoming aware. By becoming more aware and addressing some of the daily habits listed above, you can make a great impact. As well as having proper resting jaw position and neck posture.
Resting jaw position should be relaxed with lips together, teeth apart, and tongue resting on the roof of the mouth. This will help to prevent clenching and help keep the muscles of mastication relaxed.
Most of our days are spent with our head and neck in a forward position which can impact the biomechanics of the temporomandibular joint, as well as the muscles of the head and neck. By bringing the head into a neutral position, it can improve biomechanics of the temporomandibular joint and strengthen the deep neck flexors in the neck, which are usually underactive.
Other things to consider include: chewing on both sides at the same time or alternate sides, avoid habits such as biting nails, clenching teeth, chewing gum, and tensing, as well as avoiding excessive or prolonged opening of the mouth.
At TROSS we will help you find your trigger to the problem so you can be aware of things to change/avoid. We can use one of our manual therapy techniques to address trigger point development in the muscles of mastication and neck, in addition to exercises to help strengthen neck musculature and improve biomechanics of the neck.
If you ever have any questions or would like a free consultation contact TROSS today! TROSS proudly serves the Cottleville, St. Peters, St. Charles, O’Fallon, and St. Louis area!