With more than 3 million reported cases in the US every year, TMJ pain (or Temporomandibular joint dysfunction) is very common. However, though, many people do not know what to do when they first encounter this strange new pain. It’s can be alarming when a part of the face begins hurting out of nowhere. With closer inspection, it’s clear that a lot of these similar TMJ pain stories are the result of relatively normal wear and tear. As such, the relief from this pain may be easier than one thinks.
This joint, found behind the upper cheek region, connects the jawbone to the skull. Unsurprisingly, humans use this joint a lot. In fact, it is the primary joint that you enlist every time you speak, chew, or swallow. Most humans spend a large amount of their day chatting and eating. Therefore, it’s no wonder this joint gets quite the daily workout.
Because this joint is used so often, sometimes pain associated with this area is a simple result of overuse. Symptoms associated with TMJ pain include:
- pain directly over the temporomandibular joint (just in front of the ear),
- pain in the muscles of the face and jaw that often radiates to the neck and shoulder area,
- or ear pain, ringing in the ears (tinnitus), and hearing loss.
TMJ Pain Causes
This pain could be because a person is eating foods that are too hard or chewy. They may be grinding their teeth in the middle of the night. Or they may be clenching their jaw due to stress. However, sometimes TMJ pain may be indicative of something more going on. In these cases, the joint pain may be the result of extreme grinding of the teeth (bruxism), arthritis, or infection. The pain may range from mild to severe, and every case is different.
TMJ Pain Relief
If there has been no structural damage to the jawbone as would be present in an injury, there are noninvasive ways to alleviate pain associated with the TMJ joint. For mild cases like overuse, sometimes taking a break from hard foods and sticking to a soft diet for a period of time will do the trick (that means no chewing gum, either.) Likewise, managing anxiety can reduce clenching. In more serious cases where TMJ pain is an ongoing issue, further steps can be taken. If it is determined that the pain is coming from overnight teeth grinding, a mouthguard can be prescribed for the patient to wear while sleeping to prevent the grinding.
For cases that are a result of more serious conditions like arthritis or infection, doctors can treat the root cause of these issues to then hopefully alleviate the TMJ pain. While working on the structural maneuvers to help with the joint pain, NSAIDs and other pain relievers also work great for keeping TMJ pain at bay.
To prevent TMJ pain or to strengthen the joint after a period of dysfunction, there are several steps one can take to help work out the temporomandibular joint. These include: moving the jaw forward and back, side to side, and opening and closing the mouth. By exercising the joint in a controlled, continuous way, one can provide the joint with the flexibility it needs to support the daily demands that are put on it.
At Capitol Pain Institute, we treat the pain and symptoms associated with TMJ disorder. If you think you may be dealing with this sort of ailment, please reach out today to talk to one of our medical professionals about what we can do for you.