Do you hear popping, clicking, or cracking when you chew? Does your jaw feel tight or difficult ot open? Do you have frequent headaches? Do you experience jaw pain? You might have TMJ dysfunction!

What is TMJ dysfunction?

The two bones that make up your jaw are called the mandible, and the temporal bone of the skull; this is why it is called the "temporomandibular joint, or TMJ." In between these two bones is a small shock-absorbing disk which is meant to keep the movement smooth while a person speaks, and chews! The jaw is the most commonly used joint in the body, and dysfunction to this joint can lead to problems eating, sleeping, speaking, and even headaches.

There are also a number of muscles that play an intricate part of using this joint. The key muscles that control this joint are the masseter, temporalis, and medial and lateral pterygoids.

So let's get back to how these relate to the pain in your jaw! There are a number of causes to the pain someone might experience in their jaw but to state a few - grinding teeth is responsible for 60% of all jaw pain, dental problems such as improper designed braces, trauma to the jaw, stress, daily wear and tear, and even occupational tasks like holding the phone between the head and shoulder!

All of these examples can lead to what is called temporomandibular joint dysfunction, or in other words - poor function of the jaw. This condition has 5 stages of severity:

Stage I: Painless clicking with no restricted motion of the jaw. Xray imaging may show a slight displacement of the disc.

Stage II: Occasional painful clicking. There is intermittent locking of the jaw and headaches. The mandible is moved slightly forward. This is the beginning of deformity and a thickening of the posterior edge of the mandible begins.

Stage III: Frequent pain with associated joint tenderness, locking of the jaw, headaches, and restricted movement of the TMJ. With this severity begins a significant deformity of the disc between bones involved.

Stage IV: Chronic and frequent pain with frequent headaches and restricted motion. At this point there are moderate changes to the functionality of the jaw. There is an increase in the severity of the condition which involves degenerative changes.

Stage V: The most severe stage of TMJD has variable pain, grinding of the joint, pain with any motion, and gross deformity of the shock-absorbing disc with hardened soft tissues with accompanied arthritic changes to the joint.

So how can we help!?

Did you know that one of the most effective treatments dealing TMJD is chiropractice manipulative therapy! That right, chiropractic therapy can help aleviate your jaw pain, and correct the function of the temporomandibular joint! Some of the techniques that are frequently used are: cryotherapy, graston technique, laser therapy, soft tissue mobilizations, electrical stimulation, and even spinal adjustments!