The temporomandibular joint connects the jaw to the skull. If there is an injury to this joint or it becomes damaged in any way, TMJ dysfunction may develop. It’s important to realize that the temporomandibular joint is a complex and important structure consisting of bones, tendons, and muscles that may cause you to feel pain on one or both sides of the jaw.
There is no single method or surefire way of diagnosing TMJ dysfunction. If you believe you may be suffering from this condition, a medical professional will analyze your medical history and perform a physical exam. Your physician may also send you to an otolaryngologist or a dentist specializing in jaw disorders. The idea is to rule out other medical problems before diagnosing the patient with TMJ dysfunction, as the symptoms may also be due to a condition known as trigeminal neuralgia, salivary gland disease, or even swollen lymph nodes. Once your diagnosis has been determined, you will be treated based on the nature of your symptoms.
Symptoms of this TMJ dysfunction include pain in the jaw, jaw popping, headaches, sore jaw muscles, locking of the jaw, pain in the temple, and earaches. There are many reasons why TMJ dysfunction may develop, but some common causes include misalignment of the teeth, gum chewing, arthritis, teeth grinding, or a jaw injury.
If you want to avoid taking pain-relieving medication and use a more holistic approach, physical therapy is perhaps one of the most effective treatments for TMJ dysfunction. At your initial appointment, a comprehensive evaluation will be done of the neck, shoulder girdle, and thoracic spine in order to determine if those structures are causing your symptoms.