THE JAW or Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ)
This joint`s claim to fame is that it is the most frequently used joint in the body. Used many thousands of times a day to eat, talk, swallow and yawn.
The TMJ is the joint between the skull and the lower jaw (the mandible). This joint is immediately in front of the ear. You can feel it by putting your index fingers in your ears (with the pads facing forwards) and opening and closing your mouth. If the joint isn`t running smoothly you may feel a click or pop on opening or closing.
HOW DOES THE TMJ WORK?
The joints on either side work together and act as a fulcrum when you bite down on something. Much force is put through these joints, which is why they have a disc to cushion the blow, the same as the knees. This disc can wear or get trapped or displaced, which can cause pain. When the jaw is not functioning properly, the muscles and ligaments around it are affected and this can lead to wear and tear, often accompanied by pain.
Ear pain or ache
Sore jaw muscles
Temple or cheek pain
Jaw popping, clicking or locking
Difficulty opening the jaw fully
Frequent head or neck pain
Grinding the teeth
Pain on chewing.
WHAT DOES THE PAIN FEEL LIKE ?
The pain can be dull and constant, or sharp and searing. You may feel it each time you swallow or chew, or only occasionally. It usually hurts in front of the ear but can radiate elsewhere.
Muscle spasm and ligamentous stretch cause pain in the cheek, temple, teeth, head, neck and deep into the ear. Symptoms may only be on one side.
Some people notice ringing in their ears - this is due to muscle spasm.
WHAT CAUSES JAW PAIN?
HOW DO OSTEOPATHS DIAGNOSE TMJ DYSFUNCTION?
WHAT CAN OSTEOPATHS DO FOR THIS?
Because the symptoms often develop in the head, neck and facial muscles, an osteopath is well trained to diagnose and treat all of these areas. We use manipulation, cranial osteopathy, mobilization and techniques on the muscles and ligaments - this is what we specialize in.
Through manipulation of the jaw and neck, coupled with postural advice, we can often help to relieve pain.
Ear pain is difficult to distinguish from ear infection, but osteopaths can use equipment to look inside the ear to see if it is infected, inflamed or blocked. Our examination skills can also distinguish between hearing loss from a blocked ear or from nerve damage. Your temperature may be taken if you show signs of infection.
High blood pressure can cause head pain and some noises in the ear - so your blood pressure will be taken.
You may be referred for blood tests, swabs, X-Ray`s or dental work, depending on our findings. Head pain is thoroughly investigated here and not taken lightly.
Locking of the jaw is due to disc displacement - we use exercises and treatment that may help prevent this.
At the Agincourt Clinic we can give dietary advice which may help the disc and ligaments to heal and strengthen again.
Throughout this you will be supported by relaxation techniques, stress reduction, advice and suggestions for pain control - including suggested medication, the use of a TENS Machine, if appropriate, and use of hot and cold packs.
Walking, sleeping and sitting postural education is given. Exercises are always taught, as they help to relieve the symptoms and allow you to take part in your own healing programme and to strengthen the jaw to keep it aligned.
We are always happy to discuss whether it might be the best treatment for you. Contact us by e.mail with your symptoms and we will get back to you.