woman looking in mirror while holding her painful jawThe temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is responsible for connecting your jawbone to your skull. When functioning properly, the TMJ allows for smooth movement of the jaw when chewing and speaking. Should the TMJ become inflamed, pain, stiffness, eye, neck, ear problems and general discomfort are sure to follow. This illustrates the importance of finding proper TMJ pain relief when bothersome symptoms arise.

TMJ pain can be severe in some cases, sometimes disrupting your daily life or making it difficult to perform simple tasks. It can also spread to other areas of your body, such as your eyes, neck or ears and may even cause headaches on a regular basis. Understanding TMJ disorder and how it can be treated is the first step to finding relief.

Symptoms of TMJ Disorder

Diagnosing TMJ pain is difficult since symptoms mimic so many other ailments and conditions. Persistent jaw pain is the most obvious symptom, and pain can occur on its own or it can be caused by chewing or speaking. TMJ pain may also be felt in your neck and shoulders, and sometimes it can feel like you’re experiencing a toothache simultaneously. Headaches, ear pain, hearing loss, dizziness and ear congestion are also common when the TMJ is swollen or inflamed.

TMJ disorder is linked to other strange sensations that aren’t specifically painful. Some people complain of a clicking sensation when opening and closing their mouths. Should the swelling become severe, it may also be seen or felt on the outside of the face. In severe cases, some people develop lockjaw, which is when your jaw becomes stuck in one position.

How to Relieve TMJ Pain

Some people who experience TMJ pain and associated symptoms feel very mild effects. In this case, home relief for TMJ disorder is usually sufficient at reducing symptoms. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), which include medications like ibuprofen, reduce swelling in joints to relieve stiffness. Ice packs are another effective remedy for facial swelling and pain. Ice packs can be used throughout the day, just make sure you’re not leaving the pack on your skin for more than ten minutes at a time.  Hot packs can help reduce muscle pain.

TMJ pain also increases tension in the head and neck. Massage may be effective for relieving this tension and inducing a relaxing effect, which can sometimes prevent future TMJ pain. When discomfort occurs, gently rub the muscles in your head and neck until you feel more at ease. Taking steps to boost relaxation in your life is also recommended, whether that’s through yoga, meditation, reading your favorite book, or listening to your favorite band or singer.

When TMJ symptoms are more severe, medical treatment will be needed. Stronger prescription pain medications may be administered, including muscle relaxers to ease jaw pain. If improper jaw positioning is believed to be a factor in the disorder, a custom-fitted mouthpiece or oral splint can help. These devices correct jaw positioning to reduce stiffness and discomfort.

When other methods fail, physical therapy may be recommended. A physical therapist can help build muscle strength and jaw flexibility by using safe, targeted exercise tailored to your specific needs. Local anesthetic injections sometimes with corticosteroids are also beneficial, as they reduce swelling in the muscles surrounding the jaw to promote optimum flexibility. If it’s determined that surgery is the best course of action, arthrocentesis may be performed. This is a minimally invasive procedure that uses small needles to irrigate the TMJ, which removes debris that may contribute to irritation.

At Michigan Head & Neck Institute, we understand how challenging TMJ pain is to treat. We also know that it can negatively affect the lives of our patients in a number of ways, which is why we’re so diligent about using safe, effective treatment methods. Dr. Richard Klein and the rest of our team utilize a conservative approach to treating TMJ disorder, as we believe this is the best course of action for our patients. If you’d like to learn more about our treatment methods and how they provide relief, call (586) 573-0438 to schedule a consultation today.