Chiropractic Treatment for TMJ

Can Chiropractic Help with TMJ Pain?

Many people suffer with pain in their jaw. This is most often the result of Temporomandibular disorder (TMD), or more commonly known as TMJ. The temporomandibular joint (which is what connects your mandible to your skull) can become acutely or chronically inflamed, which is what causes pain in the jaw joints, facial nerves and jaw muscles. This inflammation and pain can lead to limited opening of the jaw, pain upon opening or biting down, and chronic headaches.

TMJ is usually caused by overworking the jaw, stress, or excessive teeth grinding/clenching (bruxisim). It can also be a side effect of jaw joint displacement due to the muscles around the jaw becoming inflamed, tired, or just angry. Chiropractic treatment for TMJ calms these joints and soft tissues, easing the pain and limited mobility.

Wouldn’t a Dentist be the Person to Treat TMJ?

Often dentists refer patients to a chiropractor for manual manipulation of the jaw and upper spine. While dentists treat TMJ with night guards to relieve grinding and Botox to relax the jaw muscles, a chiropractor can perform the manual manipulations of the jaw and spine. Owner of Floss Dental Boutique in Reno, Dr. Summer Holloway, DMD often refers TMJ patients to Dr. Welch at Northern Nevada Chiropractic.

“Dr. Welch is able to work with the musculoskeletal system, so if I have a patient with severe TMJ, I refer to Dr. Welch and his team so that they can do the adjustments on the jaw to help it better align,” Dr. Holloway says. “When the jaw is properly aligned, you don’t have one side working harder and creating that imbalance and inflammation that causes TMJ pain.”

Chiropractic is especially suited to treat TMJ pain because The National Institutes of Health (NIH) advises patients to look for a health care provider who understands musculoskeletal disorders (affecting muscle, bone and joints) and who is trained in treating pain conditions. Chiropractors train for and treat all manner of musculoskeletal issues and pain.

What to Expect from a TMJ Chiropractic Adjustment

When you visit Northern Nevada Chiropractic with jaw pain, we’ll focus on three key muscles in the jaw: the masseter, the temporalis, and the pterygoid. We’ll also evaluate the suboccipital muscles, jaw joint itself and the top two vertebrae because they also greatly impact the jaw joint and need to be properly aligned.

Once your chiropractor has completed soft tissue work for jaw pain, they will adjust and assess the jaw in a TMJ chiropractic adjustment. Your doctor feels for how your jaw opens, assessing which side has the least mobility and opens last. The side that is more “stuck” will be adjusted first to see if that balances the overall jaw. Usually this adjustment realigns the jaw, but if not, the other side may also be adjusted and your chiropractor may recommend dry needling or laser therapy to treat the muscles and inflammation.

TMJ and Dry Needling

Chiropractic treatment for TMJ can also be combined with dry needling. Dry needling is a highly effective treatment to alleviate pain and tension in the jaw and calm muscle spasms. The technique uses extremely fine, solid, stainless steel filiform needles that vary in length. The size needle selected for treatment depends on the depth of the tissue being treated. The needle is inserted into a trigger point on the jaw muscle, which causes it to contract and then relax. Your chiropractor may recommend dry needling after the jaw adjustment if the muscles of your jaw are very tight.

TMJ and Laser Therapy

Because TMJ pain is caused by inflammation, we often prescribe laser therapy in tandem with jaw adjustments. Laser Therapy stimulates the body’s cells to repair themselves, resulting in healing. It also provides an analgesic effect and reduction of inflammation. This allows the cause of TMJ pain (inflammation) to be calmed and the muscle tissues around the jaw to heal.


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