Do I Have A Problem With My TMJ?
If you are just joining us, we have started a series on Technology Syndrome. In it we are looking at the physical impacts that electronic devices have on our bodies. Specifically we are going to look at: TMJ / TMD (jaw issues and pain), headaches and neck pain, shoulder problems, carpal tunnel and related issues, lower back pain, and stress and anxiety! Whew that is a lot of stuff impacted by our phones! (and everything else). You can catch up on previous posts and lots of other great information at our web-site.
Last week we went over how TMJ / TMD can cause a variety of symptoms: Pain at the TMJ (usually described as just in front of the ear) Pain along the jaw line Limited and or painful opening of the mouth Clicking or popping of the mouth when talking or chewing "Tracking" issues when opening the mouth (jaw shifts to one side)
Other problems that can arise from a TMD (but may not be exclusive to it) are things like: headaches, crackling in the ears, fullness in the ears, snoring, neck pain, balance issues, pain in and about the face other than the jaw line, Trigeminal Neuralgia (very intense pain along the course of a nerve in the face), grinding the teeth at night and stress and anxiety.
We also saw how Forward Head Posture can cause stress and strain on the muscles in and about the head and neck, and start to pull the jaw back into its socket, compressing the sensitive nerve (Trigeminal Nerve) that sits right behind it. Over time this can irritate the muscles around the jaw, as well as the ligaments and disc that make up the Jaw joint. This causes inflammation, spasm and eventually can lead to arthritic changes.
If you have any of the symptoms listed above, there is a good chance you may have an issue with your TMJ, but it is possible that the pain could be coming from somewhere else. For the most part if your pain is coming from your TMJ, then you should have some kind of pain or limitation in opening your mouth. Makes sense right ?
Let's Take A Look !
Ask yourself the following questions: Do you have pain at the TMJ ( front of the ear) ? Do you have pain along the jaw line ? Do you have limited and or painful opening of the mouth ? Do you have any clicking or popping of the mouth when talking or chewing ? Yes to any of these questions likely means you are having TMJ / TMD issues.
Next take a look at the normal amount of jaw opening: Typically you should be able to get about three of your knuckles in your mouth without straining or pain.
Less than three, or pain and strain in getting to three knuckles can mean TMJ /TMD issue.
Next is tracking / deviation: Stand in front of a mirror and open and close your mouth slowly a few times. It should go pretty much straight up and down without shifting to the side.
Normal TMJ Opening Scary Face
Abnormal TMJ Opening Still Scary Face
A side shift, or a side shift with a pop typically points to a problem with the TMJ. The Final Self Checks are for Muscle Tenderness: The first one is the Temporalis muscle, the second is a muscle called the Masseter. The Temporalis is just like it sounds, it covers the temple region of the head. The Masseter is the muscle most of us think about when we think of the jaw muscle, it goes from the mandible (jaw bone) to the zygomatic arch (the skull in front of the ear). The best way to check these muscles is light palm or finger pressure applied over the muscle, kind of like when you massage your temples. Do both sides at the same time. What you are looking for is: Knots Tenderness Slight swelling Pain that radiates from a knot out One side being more sensitive than the other Often times this is much more pronounced on one side versus the other.
Checking For TMJ Trigger PointsThis is how you check for Trigger Points in the Masseter and Temporalis Muscles. Be thankful I didn't record this one in slow motion! In Summary: As expected TMJ Issues usually have pain in and about the mouth and jaw, but not always. Things like: headaches, crackling in the ears, fullness in the ears, snoring, neck pain, balance issues, pain in and about the face other than the jaw line, Trigeminal Neuralgia (very intense pain along the course of a nerve in the face), grinding the teeth at night and stress and anxiety can also be the presenting symptom of a TMJ problem. The three easiest checks to do on your own to see if you issue may be coming from the TMJ itself are: Limited or painful opening (Less than three fingers, or three fingers with pain and strain) Side shift of the TMJ when opening often accompanied by a pop or crack Painful and tender muscles that are associated with jaw movement, often on just one side If you have any of the symptoms related to TMJ, and or you if you noted a problem with any of the self tests above, there is a good chance you have a TMJ problem.
Next week we will cover some of the basic home treatment you can do that may resolve your issue without having to seek professional help.
Yours in Health,