TMJD & Chiropractic Care

Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJD) causes pain to the muscles used when chewing food, which connect the jaw to the head. This typically results in a decreased range of motion for the jaw, so that those who suffer from this dysfunction cannot open their mouths as wide as they would like to without experiencing pain.

Another symptom is clicking sounds issuing from the jaw area every time the mouth opens and closes. Besides this, a whole host of secondary symptoms attend TMJD, including earache, headache (migraines), dizziness, and neck and shoulder pain.

The common causes for TMJD are teeth grinding, trauma to the jaw from some accident, excessive nail biting, and degenerative joint diseases. It seems to affect younger people between the ages of 20-40, with the average age of someone suffering from TMJD being 33.9. For some reason, females are more often afflicted with TMJD than males. It is thought that about 75% of the general population is affected by TMJD in at least some variance of its symptoms, but it is difficult to know for sure because the disease often goes untreated.

Chiropractic care for TMJD has not been subjected to any extensive studies. The only extant literature describing chiropractic treatment of this disorder are a few case studies of only 9 participants. In these case studies, some patients reported improvement while others reported no improvement, or even a worsening of the symptoms. 

A typical chiropractic treatment for TMJD would proceed as follows. The chiropractor would check the active joint motion of the jaw while placing the index fingers on each ear canal opening, applying gentle pressure, while the patient opens and closes their mouth. If any abnormality is detected, the next step would be to determine which stage the TMJD is in, and then apply the appropriate therapy.

Stage of Acute Inflammation and Active Congestion

  • Cryotherapy
  • Cold packs
  • Ice massage
  • Vapocoolant spray
  • Compression
  • Pressure bandage
  • Reflex therapy
  • Pulsed alternating current
  • Rest (consuming only a liquid diet)

Stage of Passive Congestion

  • Mild adjustment
  • Moist superficial heat
  • Thermowraps
  • Ultrasound
  • Vibromassage

Stage of Fibroblastic Activity and Potential Fibrosis

  • Deep heat
  • Articular adjustment
  • Local vigorous vibromassage
  • Transverse friction massage
  • Mild active range-of-motion exercises
  • Ultrasound, continuous 

Stage of Reconditioning

  • Direct articular therapy for chronic fixations
  • Progressive remedial exercise (but with caution considering the   temporomandibular joint is the most exercised joint in the body)
  • Nutritional supplementation to enhance connective tissue integrity

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Used under Creative Commons Licensing courtesy of Theodore Scott