Symptoms of TMJ
There are a wide range of symptoms which can be attributed to the TMJ condition. The most common symptoms are the presence of neck pain, jaw ache and headaches. Successful treatment plans are available which have been shown to relieve all the common symptoms of TMJ. TMJ has become a catchall term for undiagnosed headaches, facial pain, and jaw dysfunction (problems opening or closing your mouth).
Jaw dysfunction is often seen as problems opening and closing your mouth, very limited openings, jaws getting stuck when opening or closing, and popping or clicking noises when opening or closing. These aforementioned problems can have the jaw area sore, but they can also cause headache and neck pain (mild to severe). In the majority of cases, pain is the symptom that motivates patients to seek treatment. Specifically, TMJ is short for Temporo-Mandibular Joint (“jaw joint”). When there are problems within the TM joints, this can effect the nerves, muscles, tendons, and ligaments of the head and neck.
Everyone is familiar with the pain caused by a slipped disc in the back. The right and left TM joints also have a disc. Slippage or movement of this disc in the “jaw joint” throws the mandible (lower jaw) out of balance with the upper jaw. This stresses nerves, muscles, tendons, and ligaments of the head and neck. Continued stress to these structures causes an individual pain. The patient will show up with teeth pain, ear pain, eye pain, and a myriad of other symptoms. In some cases, the pain is so debilitating that it effects one’s ability to function in life!
Why is this joint so important in treating headaches and head/neck pain?
The answer starts with the basic concept of a joint that has a dislocated disc. The dislocation can cause imbalance and pain in that portion of the body. If the disc is displaced in the knee, the muscles of the leg are placed under the burden of trying to protect the injured joint. The muscular effort results in spasm, cramping, and pain. When the disc is displaced (dislocated) in the TM joints, the muscles of the head are stressed and they begin to spasm and pain results. This same scenario follows joints and muscles throughout the body.
The American Medical Association Ad Hoc Committee on Headache Classification has listed 15 different types of headaches. The AMA study illustrates that muscle contraction headaches are those which are suffered most frequently. This category comprises 90% of all headaches. Migraines comprise only 6% of all headaches. The public has used the term “migraine” synonymously with severe headache pain. In reality, most of these severe headaches are muscle contraction in origin.