(Dys)Functional Friday's - Tame Your Temporomandibular Joint!

Welcome to our (Dys)Functional Friday Blog Post! As promised, we will be looking at the Temporomandibular joint! I suffer from a lot of jaw pain, tension in the face, temples, neck, and scalp. I often experience migraines due to the tension that is built up in this joint. In my attempt to relieve this discomfort I have come across some self-care techniques that can ease some of these symptoms that are associated with TMJ disorders.

But first let's learn a little bit about the joint and how it moves. The temporomandibular joint acts like a sliding hinge, connecting your jawbone to your skull. You have one joint on each side of your jaw. The parts of the bones that interact in the joint are covered with cartilage and are separated by a small shock-absorbing disk, which normally keeps the movement smooth.

The TMJ is considered one of the most complex joints in the body, it not only moves forward and backwards but it can also rotate and move side to side. It allows us to chew, speak, yawn, and swallow.

So where exactly is the TMJ? To locate it, place two fingers on your cheek, right in front of your ears, and then open and close your mouth. You should be able to feel a rounded joint that moves as the mouth opens and closes. Here you will feel the rounded ends of the lower jaw as they glide along the joint socket of the temporal bone, which is the part of the skull that contains the inner ear and the temple.

People who have TMJ disorders may experience pain or tenderness of the jaw, pain in one or both temporomandibular joints, aching pain in and around the ear, difficulty chewing or pain when chewing, aching facial pain, locking of the joint, making it difficult to open or close your mouth, a clicking sound or a grinding sensation when you open your mouth or chew. You may also have toothaches, headaches, neck aches, dizziness, earaches, hearing problems, upper shoulder pain, and ringing in the ears.

This disorder can occur for a variety of different reasons. TMJ disorders can occur if the disk erodes or moves out of its proper alignment, the joint’s cartilage is damaged by arthritis, the joint is damaged by a blow or other impact, but in many cases however the cause of TMJ disorders is unclear.

Don’t fret it you think you have this disorder or you experience extra tension in this region. Let’s talk about some remedies. In most cases TMJ disorders are temporary and can be relieved with self-managed care. The Canadian Chiropractic Association suggest intraoral myofascial release which is a technique used by some healthcare professionals like chiropractors to release muscles around the joint. There’s also spinal manipulative therapy, soft tissue massage (Yoga Tune Up Therapy Balls), and a few exercises that can help relieve some of the pain such as resisted mouth opening & closing, tongue up, side to side jaw movement, forward jaw movement that I have provided for you below. Before you try these exercises I just want to mention that none of these exercises should be painful and if any of them do cause pain, you should consult with your doctor before continuing to do them.