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Do you experience temporomandibular joint disorder, aka jaw dysfunction?

glebe chiropractic clinic + massage therapy centre pain in the jaw blog post

Do you wake up with jaw pain? Feeling stiff in the face and neck? Feeling like you have been clenching your teeth all night? Do you hear clicking and popping from your jaw when you chew? You may be experiencing temporomandibular joint disorder or TMD.

The adult human body is made up of approximately 206 bones that form over 300 joints. The temporomandibular joints (TMJ) are the joints that form our jaw. We have one on each side of our face. The TMJ is a sliding hinge, connecting our jawbone to our skull. It allows complex movements required for chewing, swallowing, talking and yawning. Dysfunction of the TMJ can cause pain, headaches and can have a serious impact on your daily life.

Temporomandibular joint disorder relates to a problem with the jaw bone, the jaw joint and the related muscles around the jaw. TMD can cause pain and tenderness around the ear, the jaw, the face or the temples. Some people experience neck pain and headaches associated to TMD. Other symptoms include difficulty opening/closing the mouth or locking of the mandible. TMD sufferers may hear and feel clicking, popping or grinding sounds when they chew, yawn or open their mouth.

So what causes jaw dysfunctions? TMD is usually caused by a combination of factors. These factors include trauma to the jaw, injury to the head or neck, stress, poor posture, and arthritis. Our jaw is so closely related to our neck that indirect trauma, such as whiplash from a car accident or a fall can affect our TMJ.

It may be surprising to learn that our temporomandibular joints can become arthritic. The TMJ can be involved both main types of arthritis. Those are degenerative arthritis, such as osteoarthritis and inflammatory arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis. Osteoarthritis of the TMJ is the ‘wear and tear’ of the jaw joint. It typically impacts people over the age of fifty. Patients complain of jaw stiffness and pain. They may describe the feeling as grinding of the joint as the joint itself and the disc is worn. The temporomandibular joint can be impacted by inflammatory arthritides, such as rheumatoid arthritis, much like they impact other joints in the body with inflammation, bone erosion, and tissue damage. Patients may experience bouts of achiness and pain around their TMJ, ear, and upper neck.


The jaw is an integral component of the postural system. The body functions at its best when all of the joints, bones, and muscles are properly aligned and when there is little to no tension on the nervous system. If you spend your day slouching in your office chair over a computer, you likely have less than ideal posture. As your head and shoulders translate forward, the normal curvature in your neck is lost. Poor posture has a domino effect, as your misaligned spine will cause your mandible to protrude forward and create a bad bite. This will also cause increased tension in the muscles in the back of your head, your upper neck, your temples, and jaw. Increased tension in these areas can cause pain and headaches. Poor posture is one of the leading causes of TMJ disorder. The good news is that a workstation adjustment, frequent breaks, appropriate exercises and stretches and regular chiropractic care can improve your posture and decrease your TMD symptoms.


Your chiropractor will first assess the cause and source of your jaw pain with a comprehensive history and examination. Did an injury occur? Are you stressed, are you clenching your teeth? Is there degeneration in the joint? A complete evaluation of your posture, jaw movements, spine and musculoskeletal system will be performed. This will provide your chiropractor with important information. The TMJ is a complex joint affected by many surrounding tissues. Most TMJ conditions respond well to conservative chiropractic care. Advice and recommendation regarding postural changes may be made, especially in the upper neck. Chronic poor posture could be causing or contributing to your TMD.

If you are experiencing TMD, talk to your dentist and to your chiropractor. Our team at Glebe Chiropractic Clinic + Massage Therapy Centre value collaborating with your other health care practitioners in order to provide you with the best care possible.


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