TMJ or Temporomandibular joint disorders are related to the group of muscles and bones that are responsible for jaw movement. The pain caused from TMJ disorders can be local to the joint that is around the jaw, and in the forehead, or radiate as far as the neck, shoulders, and even the upper back. The disorder is characterized by a clicking or popping sound in the jaw, but typified by the pain caused by jaw movement.
Pain and TMJ
Excruciating as this sounds, the biggest problem faced by TMJ patients is actually getting their medical practitioners to take them seriously. Most patients feel like their doctors do not really believe that a pain in the jaw is worth investigating, and most doctors who treat headaches, shoulder discomfort, and back ache fail to see the connection between shoulder pain and TMJ or neck pain and TMJ.
Treatment for Pain
The onus for treatment is thus left to the patients themselves, who suffer the repercussions of pain and TMJ on a daily basis. Ordinary activities like eating and talking become terribly painful. Chewing is painful and troublesome, sleeping becomes a problem, and without proper rest, the body begins to suffer from strain. This only leads to further disorders ranging from mental ailments like inability to concentrate and irritability, cosmetic problems like loss of hair, and severe physical problems like indigestion, fatigue, etc. It has already been established that the pain and TMJ go hand in hand. It is now also known that TMJ can cause reduced hearing and ringing in the ears.
TMJ experts have tried to minimize the pain, and TMJ patients are now equipped with a variety of treatments. Some of these include physical therapy and home remedies, both of which are methods that avoid the ingestion of too many pharmaceutical products.
TMJ physical therapy involves exercising the jaw that is placing stress on it and then allowing it to relax, lending elasticity and motion to the jaw muscles. For example, a patient stretch open one side of the mouth and close it, then open the other side of the mouth and close. Another exercise involves opening the mouth as wide as possible, and then using the hand to gently open the mouth a little wider, then relaxing the jaw. Hot towels pressed against the side of the face are recommended during physical therapy to relieve pain.
Some of the TMJ home remedies (aside for the physical therapy described above) include sprinkling ground flax seeds over a meal before eating, and using ice packs to relieve the pain caused by daily activities for patients of TMJ, chewing, talking, etc. Another effective home remedy is massaging the joints with the finger tips. TMJ patients are advised to generally avoid overusing the jaw muscles – for instance eating less fibrous food and avoiding chewing gum, and maintaining good ‘jaw posture’ or keeping the teeth slightly apart and the tongue touching the roof of the mouth. Over and above this, patients are urged to educate themselves about the disorder and visit a specialist trained in neuromuscular dentistry.