Did you know that a chiropractor can help with certain types of TMJ (jaw) pain? Sometimes jaw pain isn’t coming from the jaw at all. The sternocleidomastoid (SCM) muscle, which runs from under your ear down to your sternum and clavicle, is famous for harboring trigger points that refer pain into the jaw, ear, and head. These trigger points, or knots, tend to form when the SCM is overused or chronically shortened, such as with sitting at a computer all day or sleeping on your stomach with your head turned. Other trigger points that can cause pain in the jaw can be found in the muscles of the jaw- the masseter, the pterygoids, and temporalis. A chiropractor who is well-versed in trigger point therapy will know how to locate and deactivate these trigger points. In cases like this, I have gotten rid of people’s jaw pain in as little as 2 treatments.
As for actual chiropractic adjustments, there are some techniques that manipulate the TMJ directly, but I do not use them. The TMJ is a delicate joint that is easy to dislocate, so I prefer to use trigger point release instead. However, I have found that people with jaw problems usually also have neck problems, so neck adjustments are usually part of the treatment plan.
Care must be taken to determine the underlying cause of the jaw pain. Poor posture must be corrected, stress must be relieved and bad habits like constant gum chewing or mouth breathing must be stopped. In cases where jaw pain is due to clenching, grinding, or malocclusion of the bite, I always work in conjunction with a dentist. Usually people will need some dental work to correct the bite and a night splint to protect the teeth and TMJ from clenching and grinding. By the way, if you live in the Chelmsford area and you are looking for a TMJ expert, I highly recommend my dentist, Dr. Louis Stylos. He is the most thorough and gentle dentist I have met, and he specializes in TMJ problems.