by Andrew Pacholyk MS L.Ac ~
Peacefulmind.com

Today, researchers generally agree that temporomandibular joint syndrome falls into three main categories:

1. Myofascial pain, the most common form of TMJ syndrome, which is discomfort or pain in the muscles that control jaw function and the neck and shoulder muscles.

2. Internal derangement of the joint, meaning a dislocated jaw or displaced disc, or injury to the condyle;

3. Degenerative joint disease, such as osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis in the jaw joint.

A person may have one or more of these conditions at the same time. Severe injury to the jaw or temporomandibular joint can cause TMJ syndrome. A heavy blow, for example, can fracture the bones of the joint or damage the disc, disrupting the smooth motion of the jaw and causing pain or locking. Arthritis in the jaw joint may also result from injury.

Head Forward Syndrome or Forward Head Posture has been an issue recognized more so lately, due to the fact that so many people work on computers. The pitching of the head forward has actually become a syndrome. This weakens the entire foundation from the lumbar spine upward. If you can imagine toy blocks all aligned on top of each other. Now imagine pushing the top block forward. The other blocks underneath it begin to “stress” as they try to hang on to the top block. The same thing is happening to our spinal column as we pitch our head too far forward, instead of keep the head back and aligned over the rest of the spine.

Other causes of TMJ syndrome are less clear. Some suggest, for example, that a bad bite (malocclusion) can trigger TMJ syndrome, but recent research disputes that view. Orthodontic treatment, such as braces and the use of headgear, has also been blamed for some forms of TMJ syndrome, but studies now show that this is unlikely.And there is no scientific proof that gum chewing causes clicking sounds in the jaw joint, or that jaw clicking leads to serious TMJ problems. In fact, jaw clicking is fairly common in the general population. If there are no other symptoms, such as pain or locking, jaw clicking usually does not need treatment.

Researchers believe that most people with clicking or popping in the jaw joint likely have a displaced disc — the soft, shock-absorbing disc is not in a normal position. As long as the displaced disc causes no pain or problems with jaw movement, no treatment is needed.Some experts suggest that stress, either mental or physical, may cause or aggravate TMJ syndrome.

People with TMJ syndrome often clench or grind their teeth at night, which can tire the jaw muscles and lead to pain. It is not clear, however, whether stress is the cause of the clenching/grinding and subsequent jaw pain, or the result of dealing with chronic jaw pain or dysfunction. Scientists are exploring how behavioral, psychological and physical factors may combine to cause TMJ syndrome.

Exercises for TMJ Syndrome

Milking The Cow

The exercise so often referred to by chiropractors and craniosacral therapists is Milking the cow.
Close your eyes.
Let the jaw relax and slightly open.
With index and middle fingers of both hands place them on both sides of the sides of the ears at the cheek bone (zygomatic bone)
press down and pull the fingers down toward the corner of the jaw (angle of mandible).
Repeat this stroking motion SLOWLY, 20-30 times.
This relaxes the jaw and can often “adjust” the positioning of the condylar process of the mandible. Relieving tension in the jaw and face.

Fist Resistor

This exercise works using isometrics. Place your fist under your chin. Slowly open your mouth wide as you resist the downward motion of opening your mouth with your fist.

Now reverse this motion, pushing upward with your fist, allow your jaw to do the resisting as you close your mouth with your fist.
Do this 10-15 times s-l-o-w-l-y, 2-3 times per day.

Neck Relaxor

Take a large towel and fold it the long way. Roll the towel up. Now lay on the floor and place the towel under the curve of your neck. The back of your head should be able to rest on the floor. Now relax for 15 minutes. This allows the curve of the neck relax into proper alignment. This exercise can be done as a great stress reliever as well. Muscles have memory and this exercise allows the muscles in the neck to “remember” their shape in relation to the cervical spine.

Additional Therapies

Acupuncture: As an acupuncturist, I see this syndrome in my office at least twice a week. Acupuncture has a great track record for helping TMJ syndrome. Acupuncture helps by relieving persistent jaw and neck pain as well as relieving the headaches associated with TMJ syndrome.

Chiropractor: Chiropractors can help to realign the skeletal structure of the neck and jaw. Spinal problems and TMJ are often found together and an adjustment can bring great relief.

Craniosacral Therapist: The work of a craniosacral therapist aims at releasing temporal bones to restore normal function, regardless of the primary cause. This gentle, non-invasive procedure is very beneficial.

Trigger Point Therapy: is a unique treatment protocol for the treatment of myofascial pain. Trigger Points produce pain locally and in a referred pattern and often accompany chronic musculoskeletal disorders. The purpose of trigger point therapy is to eliminate pain and to re-educate the muscles into pain-free habits.

Find other ways to relieve pain…