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Do you suffer from chronic headaches and/or neck pain, and struggle to gain long-term symptomatic relief from various treatment modalities? The answer to your pain may lie in the function of your jaw.
The Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) is a joint located just in front of your ears, which connects your jawbone to your skull. It’s used continuously throughout the day when you eat, talk and even breathe. This joint is closely related not only anatomically, but also in its overall function and biomechanics to the upper part of your neck, also known as your cervical spine.
Looking specifically at headaches, a study by Ciancaglini (2001) concluded that there was a distinct association between general headaches as reported by subjects, and symptoms of TMJ disorder. It is therefore vital that overall assessment includes these areas, and subsequent treatment is provided so that the presenting complaint, whether it be the headache or jaw pain, is resolved.
Some symptoms that may indicate a TMJ dysfunction are: pain when chewing or yawning, clicking, tension over the area, inability to fully open your jaw, and in more severe cases, locking. You may also experience ringing in the ears and other auditory problems due to the close proximity with the ear canal.
Currently there is much discussion about the cause of TMJ disorders. Some problems within the joint itself include arthritis, injury, and dislocation of the joint (either from direct trauma, extensive dental work (think wisdom teeth removal!), or general laxity). Bruxism, more commonly referred to as clenching or grinding, can also put significant stress on the area, often occurring when we are stressed, anxious, and even when we are thought to be at our most relaxed – when sleeping. Interestingly enough, it has been found that TMJ related symptoms are more associated with work-related psychosocial factors rather than the actual type of work itself! (Mikko et al, 2003)
Treatment of the neck will be similar to what you may have previously experienced, employing techniques directed at the joints, muscles, fascia and ligaments. Treatment of the jaw itself however is likely to include addressing tight muscles that support and coordinate jaw movement, and correcting any structural or biomechanical compensations present. Be warned – this may involve intra-oral work with a glove! A holistic approach is likely to be taken to also incorporate reduction in stress and anxiety and improvement in breathing technique to prevent reoccurrence if this is in fact the cause of your TMJ pain.
If you feel like you may be experiencing jaw pain, or are suffering from long term chronic headaches, book an appointment with one of the practitioners at CSSM – we can help you.
Ciancaglini and Radaelli, 2001. The relationship between headache and symptoms of temporomandibular disorder in the general population
Mikko et al, 2003. Temporomandibular joint related painless symptoms, orofacial pain, neck pain, headache, and psychosocial factors among non-patient
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