TMJ disorder is an umbrella term used to describe pain in and around the temporomandibular joint. This is the joint that connects the jaw to the skull and will be heavily involved in routine actions, including opening the mouth, yawning, chewing and grinding food and biting down. The joints join just in front of the ear and you can actually feel the parts moving when you open your mouth, if you place your fingers next to your ears.
Disorders of the temporomandibular joint are common, but many people remain undiagnosed because they do not raise the issue or discuss their symptoms with their doctor or dentist. The symptoms are also similar to a host of other health problems and conditions, including gum disease, sinus problems, headaches and arthritis.
What are the symptoms of TMJ disorder?
Symptoms usually affect the joint itself, but can also manifest in other areas of the body, including the neck, shoulders and back. Symptoms include:
• Restricted movement in the temporomandibular joint
• Pain in and around the jaw
• Shoulder, neck and back pain
• Clicking and grinding noises in the jaw
• Swelling around the jaw joint
• Tenderness around the jaw joint
• Ringing in the ears
• Difficulty swallowing
• A feeling of tiredness and strain in the facial muscles
What causes TMJ disorder?
In many cases, the exact cause of pain is unknown but possible causes include:
• Teeth grinding
• Dislocation of the joint
• Osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis
If there is an underlying cause, for example arthritis, treating this may help to ease symptoms. Teeth grinding is fairly common and often linked to stress, for which stress management techniques can prove useful in reducing anxiety and treating TMJ disorder. If you have injured your jaw, the muscles around the joint will probably have been working harder than usual, thus resulting in pain and swelling. Treating the injury will relieve pain and reduce the risk of further damage.
If you have symptoms of TMJ disorder you should see your dentist or doctor. Even if you don’t need treatment it is better to get checked out before the condition worsens.
How is TMJ disorder linked to back pain?
TMJ disorder is most commonly associated with pain in and around the jaw, but it can also contribute to muscular pains and aches in the upper shoulders, neck and back. If you experience back pain it is most likely caused by poor posture, injury or overuse, but there is a chance that the pain you suffer is connected to the temporomandibular joint. Pain the back area may also be accompanied by stiffness in the muscles and numbness in the hands and feet.
Back pain is common and it can be difficult to pinpoint a cause. But your doctor should run extensive tests to identify and address the cause. If you find that the pain is caused by TMJ disorder there are various treatment options available:
In many cases, no formal treatment is required for TMJ disorder and symptoms ease independently. However, if symptoms persist treatment may be recommended.
Treatment options include wearing a mouth guard at night to prevent teeth grinding and clenching, taking painkillers and anti-inflammatory medication to ease pain and swelling, applying ice packs to the joint and resting the joint. Conditioning exercises, relaxation techniques and dental treatment will also help to improve the alignment of the teeth and ease back pain in some cases.
If pain persists surgery may be required, but this is usually a last resort when other treatments have failed.
Common treatments for back pain, which may be beneficial for patients who are suffering from pain associated with TMJ disorder, include physiotherapy to strengthen and condition the muscles, massage therapy to release tension and soothe stress and anxiety, correcting the posture (this is particularly important for people who have a job that involves sitting for long periods of time or heavy lifting) and using heat or cold packs. Medication to reduce pain and swelling can also be highly beneficial.
Bio: This is a guest post by Rich from http://www.dentalimplant.co.uk/ where you can learn more about dental disorders and receive expert advice from qualified dentists.