Each year we are visited by patients with symptoms such as tension-type headaches, chronic pain, neck-pain, ear-ache, clicking and popping of the jaw and even dental issues.
Often this can be the result of TMD otherwise known as Temporomandibular Disorder, and it can cause a LOT of discomfort. The good news is a holistic approach to treatment is possible!
The Temporomandibular joint or TMJ, if you can imagine, is like a sliding hinge connecting the jawbone to the skull. You have one of these joints on either side of the jaw. When there is dysfunction of the jaw, it can lead to TMD.
According to the RACGP TMD is a common condition, signs of which appear in up to 60–70% of the population particularly in adults aged 20–40 years. Women are at least four times as likely to suffer from the disorder.
So what are some of the causes of the disorder and how can symptoms be relieved?
Chewing gum on one side of the mouth can exacerbate the problem by putting unnecessary stress on the joint and the muscles in the area.
Stress also plays a role. Jaw clenching when stressed is a common issue amongst patients. Stress and anxiety can result in clenching your jaw or grinding your teeth when sleeping. You may also hold your jaw in a clenched position while you’re awake subconsciously. Clenching can create tightness in the area and lead to pain.
When we are stressed, our body releases stress hormones that trigger our muscles, so they are ready for action, as a measure to be able to “act quickly” which is excellent in a life or death situation, but not so great when day to day.
Long periods of sitting in specific postures can affect the length-tension relationship of muscles acting on the jaw. The TMJ also has a role in equalizing the pressure of the inner ear. This is why yawning helps to ‘pop our ears.”
Many people don’t realize that the TMJ dysfunction is something that Osteopath’s address in their treatment.
We work using a variety of techniques to address the mobility and tension of the temporomandibular joint in addition to treating tightness through the muscles and connective tissue acting on the jaw.
Postural and mobility issues through the neck, upper back and shoulders can also impact the TMJ region and as we are always looking at the bigger picture this is an area an osteopath would also take into consideration.
For those new to the practice Osteopathy is a holistic musculoskeletal based therapy. The human skeleton, joints, muscles, nerves, circulation, connective tissue and internal organs function as a connecting mechanism and an Osteopath assists with imbalances of the system.
Osteopathy focuses on the biomechanical principles related to human movement, and as such, it can be an excellent alternative to assist in the symptoms of TMD.
We will be releasing a video series on social media in the coming month addressing the TMJ and ways in which relief can be attained, and the condition discussed in more detail. Make sure you like our Facebook Page HERE to keep up to date with the latest videos as they are released. We are passionate about helping our patients to restore health and balance in their lives, and our videos have been a big hit!
To find out more about the videos we are releasing, check out our Vimeo Channel HERE