Have you been told you have TMJ? What is TMJ?
TMJ stands for tempero-mandibular-joint, or in layman’s terms – your jaw. Your jaw is made up of 2 bones: the temporal bone – which is a section of your skull (which is actually made up of many bones, not just one big one) – and the mandible, which is the bone that makes your chin and holds your bottom teeth.
There are many muscles that surround the jaw and attach to it. It’s actually quite a complex little joint. The main function of the jaw is for chewing or speech. But in addition, it also functions as a pump for the nearby sinuses. That means that releasing or realigning your jaw can help relieve sinusitis.
So when someone diagnoses you with TMJ, what does this actually mean?
Usually they are referring to inflammation of the jaw joint, which causes local pain and can refer into the teeth and also give neck pain and headaches. There are a few origins of this pain as it isn’t always as straightforward as “your jaw is out of place”.
In most cases of TMJ dysfunction, the muscles around your jaw have simply tightened – which acts to almost lock your jaw on one side. This in turn causes pain and difficulty chewing/ yawning.
These symptoms are most often caused by either teeth grinding/ clenching or having your upper neck out of alignment. Fortunately, this is often simple to treat. You can ask your osteopath to release your neck or the local jaw muscles to release the jaw. In less common instances, you may need to have a “splint” or special mouth-guard fitted by your dentist to prevent your teeth from grinding at night.
More complicated cases of TMJ dysfunction may involve the disc that sits within the jaw joint. This can slip out of place or even tear (just like disc pain in your back). This may require more complicated or invasive measures to fix.
So, if you’re experiencing jaw ache, unexplained headaches, sinusitis that won’t go away or upper neck pain, seek advice from your osteopath or health professional.