TMJ Syndrome: Pain in Your Jaw

What does TMJ stand for and what is it?

Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Disorder, or TMJ Syndrome, is an all too common condition experienced by many people.  Symptoms range from pain or discomfort when biting or chewing, clicking or popping sounds when chewing, crepitus (grating sound) when opening and closing the mouth, and jaw pain, to headaches, earaches, dizziness, facial aches & pain, and potential hearing loss.

Grating your teeth is a tell tale sign of a misalignment of the jaw caused by tension in the chewing muscles, neck muscles, or structural issues due to previous trauma to the head or face.

The mandible (jaw bone) has intricate connections with the head and facial bones via the TMJ.

The TMJ is the joint formed by the lower jaw (mandible), the temporal bone (houses the ear canal), and the articular disc between these two bones.  The articular disc actually creates two joints within one, allowing for rotational as well as gliding motion.

Ligaments connect the mandible (jaw) with the temporal bone (temporomandibular and stylomandibular ligaments), as well as with the sphenoid via the sphenomandibular ligament.

There also is a direct connection between the TMJ and one of the three ear bones (ossicles), the malleus (hammer), of the middle ear via the otomandibular (disco-mallear and anterior mallear) ligaments. This may in part explain the unusual ear pain, impaired hearing, and tinnitus that sometimes accompany TMJ dysfunction.

Misalignment of the head and facial bones may cause numerous symptoms other than pain in the TMJ.

Overstretching of the stylomandibular, sphenomandibular, and temporomandibular ligaments could initiate a distortion of the relationship between the temporal bone and the sphenoid bone, as well as between all the rest of the head and facial bones, manifesting in headaches and facial pain along the suture lines.

Moreover, a shifting of the sphenoid bone where it articulates with the temporal bone (which houses the ear canal as well as the middle and inner ear) may result in ear pain, diminished hearing, tinnitus, and dizziness.

Tension in the muscles of chewing may trigger the trigeminal nerve and cause facial pain.

The muscles of chewing (mastication) are the temporalis, the masseter, and the lateral & medial pterygoids.  Together they permit opening and closing of the mouth, side to side movement of the lower jaw, and forward projection (protraction; jutting) of the lower jaw.

The muscles of mastication are innervated by the mandibular branch of the trigeminal nerve (5th cranial nerve with three branches, CNV).  Tight muscles, malocclusion (misaligned upper and lower jaws), as well as inflammation and infection of the parotid gland may put pressure on this nerve, resulting in facial pain.

TMJ syndrome may be caused by direct or indirect trauma, recent or old.

TMJ disorder may be caused by trauma directly to the joint, or anywhere in the face or on the head, by joint inflammation or degeneration, improper bite (the teeth of the upper and lower jaw do not properly align), infection of the parotid gland, dental work, and excessive tightness (hypertonicity) of any of the chewing muscles, as well as neck and upper back strain from stress, poor posture, or injuries.

The history of trauma, inflammation, infections, and improper chewing is held captive (tissue memory) in the connective tissue (fascia) that envelops and weaves through every cell, tissue, organ, or other structure of the body, such as blood vessels, nerves, lymph vessels, and meridians (energy highways of the body).

The connective tissue (fascia, ligaments, tendons, etc.) varies from being soft like gel to hard as bone.  However, with poor nutrition, lack of sleep (time for repair), trauma, inflammation, infections, and improper use of the body, the connective tissue may dessicate (dry out), harden, shorten, or become sticky and distorted.  These changes create a stranglehold on the structures within it, resulting in restriction of movement, pain, or discomfort. Read more…

Craniosacral therapy and energetic unwinding can help with TMJ syndrome.

Craniosacral therapy  and energetic unwinding help to release tension in any of these structures, and promote healthy blood circulation, lymph flow, and nerve conduction, as well as energy flow, thus helping to reduce inflammation and pain.

Craniosacral therapy and energetic unwinding accomplish this by helping the body to reduce old, or recent, restrictions in the connective tissue (fascia) that weaves through, and envelops, all cells, tissues, organs, muscles, blood vessels, nerves, and so forth.

These two related therapies are gentle, non-invasive, yet extremely effective.