TMJ stands for temporomandibular joint. However, it is commonly used in reference to disorders or conditions involving jaw movement.
Your temporomandibular joint connects your lower jaw to the rest of your head. It is a flexible joint, allowing your jaw to move up or down and side to side.
TMJ is very different from your other joints in that its a combination of hinge, sliding motions, and its tissue differs from other load-bearing joints as well. This makes TMJ one of the most complicated joints in your body.
In many instances, pain in your jaw joint or muscles does not mean a serious problem. Generally, any discomfort is occasional and temporary. Symptoms of TMJ disorders include:
- jaw locking
- uneven bite
- jaw stiffness
- ear area pain
- biting discomfort
- chewing difficulties
- radiating facial pain
- jaw pain, tenderness
- painful clicking, popping, grating
Most jaw joint and muscle symptoms seem to start without an obvious reason. And TMJ headache and jaw pain problems typically subside with little or no treatment.
Jaw clicking is common. And these jaw sounds, in the absence of pain or limited movement, do not point to a TMJ disorder. Thus, don’t warrant treatment.
Some have other health problems along with TMJ disorders, such as:
It is unknown whether these disorders share a common cause.
Because the exact causes and symptoms of TMJ disorders are presently unclear, identifying them can be difficult and confusing. Research is ongoing and until more is known about TMJ disorders, it is strongly recommended that treatments be limited to conservative and reversible.
Simple self care treatments are usually all that is needed to relieve your headache and jaw pain discomfort. Some steps you can take in relief of your symptoms are:
- eat soft foods
- do not chew gum
- gentle jaw stretching
- relax and reduce stress
- don’t clench, grind teeth
- apply warm compress to jaw
- avoid extreme jaw movements
- circumvent overuse by keeping mouth shut
- relaxation exercises that help increase jaw movement
Other, more drastic, pain relief treatments may be necessary for your TMJ, such as:
- botox injections
- stabilization splint or bite guard
- prescription medication ~ muscle relaxants, corticosteroid, antidepressants
Pay a visit to a competent doctor/dentist for these opportunities.
As for now, the prevailing medical winds do not recommend surgical treatments because they are controversial and often irreversible.
Finding the right care can be difficult. If your pain continues over time and interferes with daily life, you will likely need a team of experts ranging from neurology to rheumatology to pain management for diagnosis and treatment.
Researchers are looking for answers to what causes TMJ conditions and until answers are discovered, it’s important to avoid procedures that can cause permanent jaw changes.