Temporalmandibular joint disorder (TMD) is a pathology of your jaw. The temporalmandibular joint (TMJ) is the joint that connects your jaw to your skull. It is a hinge joint (think of how a door opens) that opens and closes your mouth. TMD is a result of chronic issues with the muscles in the face that control the movement of the jaw.
Causes of TMD (TMJ Disorders, 2016)
Although it is not know what causes TMD, there are some the most prominent theory is that injury, irregularity, or tightness in your jaw muscles cause pain in your joint. Some causes may be:
- Injury in cases of a heavy blow, or whiplash
- Chronic pressure on joint caused by grinding or clenching teeth
- Arthritis of the jaw
- Chronic muscle tightening due to stress
Symptoms of TMD (TMJ Disorders, 2016)
Symptoms of TMD vary among patients. Some may have temporary pain, and others may have pain that lasts for years. There is no widely accepted diagnostic criteria for TMJ, however some symptoms include:
- Severe pain or discomfort in the jaw
- Tenderness in the face, neck, and shoulders
- Lock jaw, or clicking or popping noises in the jaw
- Pain in the ear during chewing, speaking, or yawning
- Facial swelling
- Difficulty chewing, as if upper and lower teeth do no fit together
- Tooth or head aches
- Stiffness in jaw muscles
Can Massage Be a Treatment?
Treatment for TMD typically includes such things as over the counter Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatories (NSAIDS), icing the area, eating soft foods, gentle stretches, and stress reduction. Prescription pain medications, Botox injections, and in more serious cases, surgery may also be used to treat TMD (Cunha & Shiel, 2016).
Another common treatment for TMD is massage therapy! As mentioned above, it is believed that TMD is caused by injury, irregularity, or tightening of the muscles. Massage therapy is a safe and effective way to release the tension in muscles that may be causing pain and pain radiation. The most effective form of treatment for TMJ may be neuromuscular therapy, which is the application of ischemic pressure to trigger points that may form as the result of muscle tension.
It won’t take only one session to relieve the pain, though. Keep in mind that pain builds up over much time, and a one-hour massage therapy session is only going to reduce some of that pain, especially if the causative factors that make your muscles tighten in the first place are not removed. Massage is only one part of your overall treatment, and (as previously stated) massage will only have a lasting effect if the causative factors are removed as well.
Please always remember that this blog is not meant to be medical advice, or provide diagnosis or treatment prescription. Massage is not an alternative form of medicine, it is only complementary. Please follow the advice of your primary care physician.
Cunha, J.P and Shiel Jr, W.C. 2016. Temporalmandibular Joint Syndrome. [Internet]. [Updated 2016 Dec 1]. [Accessed 2017 Feb 27]. Available from: http://www.medicinenet.com/temporomandibular_joint_syndrome_tmj/article.htm
TMJ Disorders. [Internet]. [Updated 2016 Dec 1]. National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Reasearch. [Accessed 2017 Feb 27]. Available from: https://www.nidcr.nih.gov/oralhealth/topics/tmj/tmjdisorders.htm