Does your jaw ever click or lock while you are eating? Or do you wake up with a headache and tenderness around the jaw? This is a common condition known as Temporomandibular Disorder (TMD)


What causes TMD?

There are several causes of TMD including previous dental work, trauma or injury to the jaw, anatomical abnormalities, connective tissue disorders and bruxism.

Bruxism is a condition where you may grind your teeth or clench the jaw muscles, usually in your sleep. It affects many people throughout their lives and can occur not only during sleep, but also through the day – it may take the form of nail biting, chewing gum etc).

Bruxism is most common in people who suffer with anxiety and depression, or those under stress.


The Anatomy

There is a link between the shape and structure of the Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ), its’ surrounding tissues such as the dental arches, the teeth, the facial bones and the neck. This anatomical area is called the Stomatognathic System.

Your osteopath may identify postural causes for your jaw pain. Most commonly, we see an overextension of the neck, in combination with weakened muscles at the front of the neck. This can impact the structure and position of the TMJ, and how it functions, thus causing some issues with mouth closing and opening. If you notice a clicking in your jaw, this is due to the small disc in the joint moving in and out of place awkwardly – most commonly due to muscle imbalances around the jaw.

Common observations also include tightened muscles at the base of the skull – these can lead to headaches and eye pain; very tight and tender muscles inside the mouth, and other postural issues from the pelvis, upper back and neck!


Jaw Joint

What Can Your Osteopath Do To Help?

Your osteopath is trained to consider why you may be suffering with TMD. In our assessment, we will consider any postural issues that may be contributing to it, as well as any lifestyle factors that may need addressing.

In your treatment, your osteopath may use a variety of techniques to help treat the jaw, both directly and indirectly.

This may include:

  • Soft tissue massage techniques around the neck, upper back, base of the skull and the chest muscles
  • Working to correct any alignment issues coming from the pelvis or below
  • Intra-oral massage techniques
  • Stretching, articulation and manipulation of the structures around the neck, jaw and the rest of the spine
  • Dry needling in the muscles around the head and neck to ease tenderness and improve range of motion
  • Advice on exercises you can do at home to work on the jaw and the postural issues affecting your TMJ
  • Relaxation advice to help manage stress
  • Advice on seeing a dentist for a splint to wear at night (this can help protect the teeth, and may prevent clenching)

TMD can greatly affect your quality of life and can make daily tasks such as eating and speaking very uncomfortable. It can be chronic in nature and take a long time to get better, so if you have any questions regarding TMD, see your osteopath for an assessment and treatment today!

Article Written By: Fleur Watson