What is the temporomandibular joint (TMJ)?
The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is a small joint located in front of the ear where the skull and lower jaw meet. TMJ disorders (TMJD) are believed to be the 2nd most common musculoskeletal complaint after low back pain. A variety of symptoms such as headaches, facial pain, neck pain, ear related symptoms and limited ability to open the mouth are suggestive of TMJD. People may also complain of clicking or grating sounds in the joint or feel pain when opening and closing their mouth. While trauma to the jaw can lead to TMJ problems, in most cases scientists and practitioners do not know the cause. Stress, anxiety, injury such as whiplash, clenching and/or grinding teeth and postural issues appear to be contributing factors but for many people symptoms seem to start without obvious reason.
How can Massage Therapy Help?
According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (USA), there is little scientific evidence that supports permanent, irreversible changes to the bite or jaw, such as surgery and orthodontics when treating TMJD. To date, evidence supports the use of conservative and reversible treatment approaches for TMJD treatment. Massage therapy treatment is reversible and noninvasive. In combination with therapeutic exercise this approach provides self-care management in an environment to create patient responsibility for their own health.
The goals of massage therapy treatment for TMJD are to decrease pain, enable muscle relaxation, reduce muscular hyperactivity, and re-establish muscle function and joint mobility.
For some clients, treatment may include massage therapy to muscles inside the mouth (intraoral massage). When this work is necessary and agreed upon, a detailed conversation takes place wherein the therapist will discuss the treatment plan and what to expect, the opportunity for questions is provided and clients’ consent is obtained.
If you would like more information or book an appointment to address TMJ related issues please talk to your massage therapist or chiropractic practitioner