Do You Think You Have TMJ? How A Chiropractor Can Help

Posted on: 21 January 2015

Has your jaw been hurting enough lately that you suspect TMJ? If so, you'll want to look for some other tell-tale signs, such as a stiff neck, sore throat, bruxism, headaches, and aching ears; and, you'll want to visit your doctor. While prescribed medications can usually reduce the pain, you may want to try a more holistic approach: visiting a chiropractor. Even though chiropractors are known for helping back-related issues, they definitely can adjust your temporomandibular joint and give you some jaw-strengthening exercises. Read on to get an overview of some possible remedies, the adjustment itself, and some possible exercises. 

What Kinds of Remedies Will Take the Edge off the Pain?

Besides taking medications here are a few other ways to reduce your TMJ pain:

  • Make a conscious effort to relax your jaw. (Tip: Let your head fall to your chest, and shake your head gently side to side. Let your mouth fall open and your jaw will go slack).
  • Use a combination of heating pads or ice packs when your jaw is sore.
  • Eat softer foods.
  • Wear a mouth guard at night (Tip: If you are just hanging out at home, you may want to wear a mouth guard a few times of day since you'll be better able to recognize when your jaw and teeth clench).

If these methods aren't helping you very much and your case is serious, your dentist may actually recommend surgery to correct your jaw and bite. However, some people aren't keen on such an invasive method. If you are one of those, chiropractic care is a fantastic alternative.

What's the Adjustment Like?

There isn't one singular adjustment method for TMJ. Instead of adjusting your jaw, your chiropractor may have you lay on adjustment table or bench, and fix your back alignment if he or she suspects a root issue with the spine and nervous system.

Your chiropractor may adjust your temporomandibular joint or mandibule (lower jaw) with minor movements. This may sound scary for first timers, but the chiropractor will help you relax so that your jaw slides quickly and easily into the proper position.

They may also apply a trigger point therapy. Trigger point therapy is great because it not only adjusts the joint, but helps the muscles relax enough to prevent your TMJ issues from resurfacing. The chiropractor will put on some gloves and may use his or her fingers to massage muscles both inside and outside the mouth. The adjustment won't hurt, but it may feel uncomfortable since the chiropractor will apply pressure to relieve each trigger point's tension.

There are a few common trigger points that your chiropractor can tackle. If your TMJ is causing pain at the base of your temple and behind your ear, he or she may put pressure on your trapezius muscle, which runs from the base of your neck down your back. The chiropractor may adjust the masseter muscle--located by your cheek bones--since it is often the culprit for upper jaw pain and pressure behind the eyes. As you can see, it's important to not only tell the chiropractor that you have jaw pain, but where that pain radiates from (e.g. closer to the ear, closer to the chin, etc) since there are different options for an adjustment.

What Exercises Can You Do to Make the Most of the Adjustment?

After the exam, your chiropractor may give you some exercises as "homework." Here are a few you might want to try in the meantime:

  1. Moving Your Jaw Side to Side with Resistance: Rest your jaw in your left hand and push to the right. Have your lower jaw push against this resistance. Switch hands and repeat on the other side. 
  2. Opening and Closing Your Mouth with Resistance: Put your thumb on the bottom of your chin and open your mouth. Like the previous exercise, apply some pressure so that you open your mouth with resistance. Rest your pointer finger in the divot between your chin and lips and push down as you try to close your mouth.
  3. Putting Your Tongue on the Roof of Your Mouth: As you slowly open your mouth, push your tongue to the roof of your mouth.
  4. Holding a Tongue Depressor with Your Teeth: Put a tongue depressor between your teeth. Don't bite hard into the depressor, just close your teeth enough so that it doesn't fall out. Move your jaw side to side, then forward and backward without dropping the depressor.
  5. Practicing Good Posture: There's numerous exercises for good posture; do a quick search online and you'll find all sorts ways to improve. To get started, you may want to check out since they have posture tips for sitting, standing, and lying down,.

Be sure to spend at least a few minutes on each exercise and do them every day. If you have about twenty minutes to kill, you can easily get them all done while watching TV or surfing the web. If you make the effort to try home remedies and strengthening exercises, you're chiropractic treatment will be that much more effective in treating your TMJ. For more information, contact a local chiropractic clinic, like Gillette Chiropractic Center.