TMJ Disorder: What Is It, and What Can Be Done To Solve It?

TMJ Disorder: What Is It, and What Can Be  Done To Solve It? Blog  TMJ TMD

TMJ is just the abbreviation for the temporomandibular joint. This joint connects your jaw to the temporal bones in your skull. Actually, if you put your fingers in the center of your ears, you could feel this joint while opening and closing your mouth. Unfortunately, this little joint causes a great deal of orofacial pain for Americans today. There have been many cases in America of people with misaligned TMJ joints, sometimes called TM Disorder (TMD). To be precise, 35 million Americans report some kind of TMJ pain to their dentists. In this short article, we will take a look at some of the facts for this increasingly common disorder.

What Causes TMD?

The causes of TMJ pain vary widely. Some people complain of orofacial pain after a significant car accident or a hit to the face. Others see a gradual increase in pain in the jaw area over time. Many people who develop TMD grind their teeth at night, which, if left untreated, could lead to a deterioration of the TMJ, fatigued facial muscles, and the destruction of the sufferer’s teeth. As you can see, there are different causes for TMD, some of which happen while we sleep.

What Do TMD Sufferers Feel?

Most people report similar symptoms for TMJ disorder. Sufferers report TMJ pain that could include stinging, burning, or even tingling in the jaw area. TMD sufferers also experience difficulty chewing certain foods, and may even feel clicking or popping in the TM joint while eating or talking. People with TMD also might wake up with a locked jaw or experience a locked jaw while keeping their mouth open for extended periods of time, like during a dental procedure. There may also be a swelling in the face, and TMD sufferers teeth may be extra sensitive due to all of the nightly grinding. Pain and tension can be referred from the jaw to the neck and shoulders. Some TMD sufferers also experience a tingling sensation in the ears.

Postural Alignment for TMJ Pain Relief

In recent years, much research has gone into understanding how to best treat TMJ disorder. Many doctors have found that correcting postural alignment is key to success in helping people manage this disorder. These doctors recommend patients use at-home self-management exercises to reduce the stress on the TM joint. Some postural problems that researchers have often found in TMJ sufferers include trigger point activation in the trapezius muscles, as well as forward head posture. Some exercises that have worked for patients include anti-gravity postural alignment exercises, such as retractions of the cervical spine. Another popular exercise is placing the tip of the tongue on the roof of the mouth while opening as wide as the patient can. The patient then holds this position for about 10 seconds, and repeats 10 times. If these exercises are taught to TMD sufferers with clarity, they can take them home and work on them every day. With each passing day, TMD patients have fewer headaches and less jaw pain.

Some Final Observations on Orofacial Pain

Orofacial pain symptoms should always be brought to your dentist’s attention. Thankfully, there are many treatment options out there for people who need them. Your dentist may recommend you visit an orofacial pain specialist, who will take into account your specific orofacial pain symptoms. Some orofacial pain specialists will teach you postural exercises, and they may prescribe muscle relaxers at the start of treatment to help decrease the pain. Orofacial pain specialists can also help to custom make a mouth guard to wear at night so you will reduce nighttime clenching. TMJ pain relief has also been found through various relaxation methods such as yoga, biofeedback, and meditation. Some TMD sufferers have also found relief from TMJ pain through acupuncture and massage therapy. So whether you or someone you know is suffering from orofacial pain, there is no reason to let your jaw ruin your life. Keep trying these treatment options till you find full relief from TMJ pain.

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In this instance, an athlete was originally diagnosed with minor quadriceps muscle strain and was treated for four weeks, with unsatisfactory results. When he came to our clinic, the muscle was not healing, and the patients’ muscle tissue had already begun to atrophy.

Upon examination using MSUS, we discovered that he had a full muscle thickness tear that had been overlooked by his previous provider. To mitigate damage and promote healing, surgery should have been performed immediately after the injury occurred. Because of misdiagnosis and inappropriate treatment, the patient now has permanent damage that cannot be corrected.

The most important advantage of Ultrasound over MRI imaging is its ability to zero in on the symptomatic region and obtain imaging, with active participation and feedback from the patient. Using dynamic MSUS, we can see what happens when patients contract their muscles, something that cannot be done with MRI. From a diagnostic perspective, this interaction is invaluable.

Dynamic ultrasonography examination demonstrating
the full thickness tear and already occurring muscle atrophy
due to misdiagnosis and not referring the patient
to proper diagnostic workup

Demonstration of how very small muscle defect is made and revealed
to be a complete tear with muscle contraction
under diagnostic sonography (not possible with MRI)

image

Complete tear of rectus femoris
with large hematoma (blood)

image

Separation of muscle ends due to tear elicited
on dynamic sonography examination

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