TMJ has become a diagnosis of a condition when in reality is it nothing of the sort. TMJ is an acronym for Temporomandibular joint. When you hear someone say, “I have TMJ.” In fact, they have two; one on either side of their face where the jaw connects to the skull.
Although there is often confusion between the TMJ, which is the actual name of the joint, and TMJ pain, it is important to look at the cause of the symptoms. Problems associated with the TMJ are caused, like so many things, from a myriad of other stressors which eventually manifest as a problem with the jaw. This is, of course, in those cases where acute trauma to the jaw has not been experienced, like, for example, getting kicked in the head a few times in martial arts class or engaging in bar room brawls. Neither of these activities are conducive to the long term health of your TMJs.
Commonly the problem begins with some form of skeletal dislocation, either in the neck or shoulder, hip misalignment, or even a slight difference in leg length. Chronic inflammation from conditions like fibromyalgia is also a potential cause. This will lead to clenching of the jaw and grinding of teeth. Eventually, the cartilage in the joint will just pop out from the constant pressure like a seed being squeezed between your fingers. You will experience this as clicking or popping in your jaw.
As with so many other ailments though, this is a compensation for another problem which leads to other behavior detrimental to your overall health which can lead to any number of outcomes, from a heart attack in the extreme to a clicking jaw.
What we’ve found interesting in dealing with patients on this is that many of them are aware of their problem and will compensate in very inventive ways, for example putting a pen or pencil in between their teeth to keep the jaw from closing and relieving the tension in the joint. Lack of oxygen, as we’ve said with respect to so many issues, is a chronic problem which is so often the first step towards healing not only the body but the mind and the spirit.
Our diagnosis will start with an x-ray image of the throat and airway, looking for how the tongue is held. Poor development of your tongue and the airway stems from poor nutrition both during gestation and after birth especially when coupled with a lack of breastfeeding. The tongue held in the back of the throat creates chronic shallow breathing leading to chronically low oxygen saturation and a compromised immune system causing inflammation of the adenoids and tonsils in children. Removing them will open up the airway but cannot correct poor tongue positioning.
With the tongue in the wrong place the body will naturally react by contracting the cervical muscles in the neck which will cause tightness and grinding/clenching leading to problems with the TMJ.
People, who are dealing with chronic pain within a short period of time, 6 months to a year, will have wrapped their entire lives around the pain, seeking to compensate for it to minimize the onset or the effects. More often than not that means medication of an ever-increasing strength which creates its own set of issues such as liver damage.
So, in any pain management treatment it begins with removing the medication and beginning to attack the problem from every direction simultaneously. That means treating the psychological issues (the causes of stress) along with the physical ones (skeletal issues, breathing) and the patient’s nutrition (a Mg deficiency leads to chronic muscle tightness). And while everyone is different, having different levels of pain tolerance or the will to cope, along with how the problems eventually manifest themselves, the path to a solution always leads back to the root cause(s) as opposed to treating the acute symptom of the moment be it a problem with one of your TMJs or gastritis, IBS or chronic headaches.