(Health Secrets) When we are in severe pain, we just want the pain gone — that’s why pain medication is so tempting. What we forget is that pain is a symptom. Pain causes the body to automatically create compensation patterns. Muscles tighten up in an effort to relieve the aggravated painful nerves or injured muscles. This is especially true in disorders of the jaw.
The lower jaw joint (mandibular jaw) connects with the skull in front of the ear. This joint, one either side of the face, is called the Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ). TMJs work in unison to permit movement of the lower jawbone. You can feel the TMJ move by placing your fingers on the bones in front of the ear during mouth movements.
Painful disorders of the jaw involving the TMJ are known as Temporomandibular Disorder (TMD). People with TMD pain often seek initial help from a general medical practitioner, or general dentist.
Bruxism (jaw clenching and teeth grinding) is a common cause of TMD. Symptoms include:
*Worn down teeth
*Headache and neck pain
Other common symptoms of TMD are:
*Headache – typically happens on the forehead region, temple region and in the back of the head. It’s an easy symptom to confuse with other conditions such as migraine
*Neck and shoulder pain – the regular function of the TMJs is related to the balance of jaw and skull, so discomfort of TMJs causes imbalance problems that can twist the jaw into a straitened position. This refers pain to the neck, shoulders and back muscles. Since muscles work as a team, contracted muscles of the jaw will make the head lean in an abnormal position, leading to compensation from the back, shoulder and neck muscles.)
*Facial pain – an imbalanced lower jaw causes all of the surrounding tissue like bones, muscles and nerves to contract and strain.
*Ear problems – There is a variety of symptoms in the ear that may appear, such as ringing ears or tinnitus. TMD is often mistaken for ear infection. A person may experience pain in the morning, pain in front or below the ear, feeling as thought the ear is cloggled or muffled, Eustachian-tube dysfunction leading to feeling of pressure in the middle ear, or hyperactivity of the muscles closing the Eustachian tube. Other symptoms include loss of hearing, impaired hearing, dizziness (vertigo) and loss of balance.
*Clicking, popping, or grinding – Sounds can result from a dislocation and can make it difficult to speak or eat.
*Locked Jaw – If symptoms are left untreated over time they can create a locked jaw in either an open or locked position, causing great pain. A dentist can help close your mouth with an easy maneuver, and end the muscle spasms.
*Sensitive and sore teeth – are a common symptom of TMD, especially if misalignment of the teeth is causing TMD as in the case of clenching or grinding of teeth due to stress. (TMD is difficult to diagnose and the dentist can perform a root canal therapy or even extraction on your teeth, which aggravates the situation).
*Jaw pain-TMD creates an imbalanced bite causing improper pressure in the jawbone. Over time pressure may dissolve the bone, or create bony projection as compensation. This may bring pain relief but may cause permanent damage to the jaw and the facial structure.
*Physiological growth – For children under 6 years old, bruxism is a normal developmental and natural response to the changes in the jaws and teeth. If this behavior persists longer than needed (after most adult teeth have emerged) it is unhealthy, and should be treated by a dentist.
*Abnormal posture of the body – leads to an abnormal position of the spinal column and tension and contraction of the neck muscles. The stressed neck muscles create imbalance of the jaw, leading to muscle clenching, or teeth grinding.
*Sleep disorders – Research studies indicate those who suffer from sleep disorders (sleep apnea, snore loudly, daytime sleepiness, sleep talking, sleep paralysis, frightening dreams) may have a greater risk of grinding their teeth.
Health And Lifestyle Risk Factors
*Drugs and medications – Some studies have shown some psychotropic drugs such as antidepressants and anti-psychotics may cause teeth grinding and clenching.
*Complications of other conditions and diseases – including Parkinson’s and Huntington’s are neurological disorders that affect the central nervous system and motor skills.
*Trigeminal Neuralgia – symptoms include a sharp, short, electric-type pain triggered by touching a specific area of the skin, and nausea caused by washing, shaving, applying makeup, brushing the teeth, kissing, or even from cold air.
*Chronic fatigue syndrome
Standard allopathic treatments for TMD include dental splinting, botox injections, surgery, and prescription pain medications. These treatments provide only symptom relief and require continuation for life.
Alternative therapies that can produce true healing include:
*Deep tissue massage
Disorders of the jaw are painful and stressful. To make sure you are choosing the best treatment modality, do some research. Some treatments such as dental surgery have lasting effects that cannot be undone. It is possible to sacrifice a healthy tooth and still the TMD continues.
NEXT WEEK: Find out what Sacro-Occipital Technique could do for you.