Definition: Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Dysfunction is a disorder of the two temporomandibular joints and the muscles surrounding them. Your TMJs open and close like a hinge and slide forward, backward, and from side to side. When you bite and chew, they sustain an enormous amount of pressure.
Causes: If the movement of these two joints isn’t coordinated, the cartilaginous disc that separates your lower jaw from your skull can slip out of position. Also, stress can cause muscle pain and tightness around the jaw that can result in clenching or grinding of the teeth (bruxism). Malocclusion, missing teeth, cranial bone misalignment, joint hypermobility, poor posture, muscle spasm, loss of proper blood flow to the area, and trigger points are examples of causes. Joint noises, such as popping or clicking, may be present with tissue alteration and stress.
Signs and Symptoms: Can you place the tips of your index, middle, and ring fingers vertically between your front upper and lower teeth? If this is difficult, or if you experience pain or a clicking or grinding noise when you try to open your mouth this far, you probably have TMJ dysfunction. Often the pain will occur on only one side of the face, and can be dull or aching. You may also experience locking of the joint, making it difficult to open your mouth. Pain may be worse in the morning or when enduring periods of increased stress. If not corrected, the muscles of mastication may develop contractures, limiting range of motion. Degeneration of the disc and the joint itself may also occur.
Treatment for TMJ Dysfunction: Treatment for TMJ Dysfunction includes medication, dental splints, and behavioral therapy such as stress management. Physiotherapy and massage therapy, especially relaxation, trigger point therapy and focused work on the muscles of mastication are effective for treating TMJ disorders. Surgery is considered if all other methods have not succeeded.
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2). Clinical Massage Therapy: Understanding, Assessing and Treating Over 70 Conditions, Copyright Rattray Ludwig, 2005 Talus Inc.