When we speak of TMJ, we are referring to the temporomandibular joint. This joint is located in front of the ear on both sides of the face, and it is surrounded by muscles and ligaments that hold the lower jawbone (known as the mandible) in place. The TMJs are the two most used, but also the most complex joints in the entire body.
The Mayo Clinic has stated that pain associated with the temporomandibular joint occurs on the side of the head, and usually can be effectively treated without surgery. TMJ pain is caused by a variety of reasons, but some of the most common ones include:
- The wear and tear on the cartilage that pads the joints, and causes the bones to grind together.
- Dislocation of the joint will cause a cracking or popping sound; that could have a negative effect on the movement of the jaw muscle. It may or may not be accompanied by severe pain.
- Grinding or clenching of the teeth (known as Bruxism).
- Misalignment of the jaw. If the upper and lower teeth are not aligned properly, motions of the jaw can cause great stress on the nerves, tendons and muscles surrounding the TMJ.
- Poor posture.
- Injury to the jaw, specifically the temporomandibular joint, or the neck region.
- Excessive stress that will cause a person to tighten their jaw and facial muscles on a regular pain can trigger TMJ pain.
Symptoms of TMJ disorder include, but are not limited to:
- Face pain.
- Pain in jaw joint.
- Ear pain or ringing in the ears.
- Back, shoulder and neck pain.
More than ten (10) million Americans are affected by TMJ pain, and according to some conducted research, three quarters of the entire United States population will experience TMJ pain at one point in the their lives. It seems to affect women of child bearing age, but women of all ages, as well as men, can be affected with this painful disorder.
Medical Massage is a specific technique that is used to relieved TMJ pain, and it focuses on reducing muscle tension in the head, the base of spine, and all the muscles between those two areas. Other very effective types of medical massage techniques include: Swedish massage, Neuromuscular, Post-isometric and Acupressure.
A survey conducted in the 80s, said that grinding of the teeth and clenching of the jaw was significantly reduced, when muscles in the jaw area were massaged on a regular basis. Regardless of the base cause of the TMJ pain, medical massage therapy is a non-invasive and effective treatment in relieving pain in the jaw area. In addition to relieving overall stress, medical massage therapy will also lower cortisol (a stress hormone) levels, and increase serotonin and oxytocin (feel good hormones and natural mood enhancers). Also, medical massage will increase blood flow, lower blood pressure, improve overall posture, reduce muscle stiffness and increase flexibility.