TMJ Syndrome: Your Guide To Relief From Jaw Pain
By Dr. Kay Wong, ND
Have you experienced pain in your jaw from locking, have had clicking sounds, headaches and discomfort throughout the day? While these symptoms could be many things, it is more likely Temporomandibular Disorder, more commonly known as TMJ.
What is TMJ Syndrome?
The Temporomandibular Joint is one of the body’s most complex joints. This joint is a sliding hinge that is responsible for your jaw to rotate in all directions needed for talking, for facial expressions and for chewing food. TMJ Syndrome is also known as TMD – Temporomandibular Disorder and refers to the pain, clicking and locking of the jaw. TMJ is commonly caused by bruxism – clenching your teeth over long periods.
What are the symptoms of TMJ?
Common symptoms can and usually include:
- Jaw pain that can radiate to the ear, often worse with chewing
- Locking and clicking of the jaw when opening the mouth
- Headache and, or neck pain
- Increasing pain throughout the day or waking up with pain
What are some causes of jaw pain?
TMJ pain is common. While the cause is complex, evidence suggests that TMJ can be caused by physical trauma, through dental work such as wisdom teeth removal, or through a sports or a motor vehicle incident. Jaw pain can also be influenced by the degeneration of the joint. Degeneration can be caused by underlying conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis. Another and often overlooked factor in TMJ is stress. Stress can cause us to clench our teeth and muscles, which puts additional stress and pressure on the joint.
How can TMJ be treated?
Because there can be multiple reasons for TMJ pain, the best approach is often a holistic approach that can include an assessment from a Naturopathic Physician who can provide a variety of treatment options.
As a Naturopathic Doctor, my goal is to always look at the root of the issue first and in the meantime will offer a variety of ways to manage pain and discomfort. Some of those treatments include:
- A combination of physical treatments. There are multiple layers of muscle and fascia from the shoulders to the top of the head that can contribute to jaw pain. I find it most effective to use a combination of intral-oral massage, acupuncture and cupping to help provide immediate relief.
- Neuromodulator Treatment is helpful to relax the masseter. This can be done with Botox or Xeomin which is injected into the masseter muscle. The Masseter muscle is one of the main muscles that contribute to clenching and jaw pain. This treatment involves a few small injections on each side of the jaw. This injection sends a signal to the muscle that it needs to stay relaxed. This treatment is very effective and can provide long term relief. It is one of the most desirable options for both patients and doctors.
- Treatment through stress management, nutrition and supplementation. We often do not associate nutrition and supplementation with treatment for TMJ, however, there is many customized herbal and natural medical support to help your body process stress. Nutrition is a foundational part of your health and altering your diet can decrease inflammation and stress on the body.
TMJ is common and can cause consistent headaches and jaw pain, which significantly impacts how you feel and function on a daily basis. TMJ can be extremely frustrating and can have long term impacts on the health of your teeth, over-all wellbeing and cause other health concerns such as arthritis in your Temporomandibular Joint.
Having worked with many patients who suffer from TMJ, and with a personal history, I find great joy helping my patients find relief, just as I have.
– Dr. Kay Wong, ND