TMJ/Jaw Joint

Temporomandibular Joint Disorder Pain (TMJ) / Jaw Joint Pain

The jaw joint, or temporomandibular joint (TMJ), gets its name from the two bones comprising the joint. The temporal bone of the skull and the mandible (the jaw bone) fit together to form the hinge-like jaw joint.

Dentist have long known the temporomandibular joint dysfunction can cause symptoms far removed from the joint itself. Headaches, back pain, and pain across the shoulders are often relieved after temporomandibular joint dysfunction is corrected. More recent evidence shows that the temporomandibular joint can cause functional problems throughout the body.

The temporomandibular joint is classified as a hinge-type joint, but it has a much more complex action than that. When simply opening and closing the mouth, the temporomandibular joint may appear to act like a hinge; however, in the chewing action there is a complex movement of the joint that provides for the grinding action of the teeth. It is impossible for only one side of the jaw to move at a time.

During the grinding action, one temporomandibular joint slides forward while the other slides back. You can observe this by placing your fingers on your jaw joints and moving your jaw to the side, as if chewing. (When you place your fingers on your jaw joint, they should be just in front of the opening of your ears.)

While your fingers are in this position, you can observe for clicking of the jaw. There should be no clicking or popping as the temporomandibular joint moves through its complete range of motion. Sometimes this noise is audible to people close to you; other times it can only be felt as a lack of smooth movement and heard by oneself. In any event, popping and clicking of the temporomandibular joint indicate that it is not functioning normally.

Examination includes determining the balance of the temporomandibular joint activity and the muscles that move the jaw through its range of motion. When an imbalance of TMJ function is found, it can often be corrected by balancing the jaw’s muscular activity with Applied Kinesiology techniques. It is sometimes necessary to have the bite (occlusion) balanced by a dentist to maintain muscle and temporomandibular joint balance.

Balance of the hyoid bone in the neck is closely associated with temporomandibular joint activity. The hyoid bone has no direct contact with other bones; it is held in the neck by muscles that support it like a sling. Again, muscular balance of the hyoid is very important for normal body harmony.

The balance of the hyoid and its muscular structures is monitored by nerve receptors within the muscles and tendons of the hyoid. These receptors are called proprioceptors, and they send information to other muscles and into the network of the nervous system. The hyoid and its associated structures can be examined for balance in a manner similar to the muscles of the temporomandibular joint. Applied Kinesiology techniques are also capable of balancing these structures when necessary.

When the temporomandibular joint or the hyoid and its associated structures are functioning abnormally, neurologic confusion can result. This particular area of the body receives a very high percentage of nerve communication from the brain. Confusion within this system can overflow into other systems of the body, causing health problems literally throughout the body by way of improper nerve function.

As modern science learns more about the controlling mechanisms within the body, we are able to treat more of the health problems to which man is subjected. Interestingly, we find that more and more symptoms are treated far from the site of the symptom itself. It is not uncommon to have a sacroiliac pain (low back pain), as well as foot pain treated at the site of the jaw joint; a few years ago this would not have been considered.

Written by SYSTEMS DC, INC (edited by Darrick E. Sahara, D.C., Inc.)