Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) dysfunction is a painful condition of the jaw, and is often referred to as lockjaw. While lockjaw is a painful condition of the jaw, it also can affect the entire nervous system and should not be left untreated. Symptoms of lockjaw include everything from a persistent headache or toothache with no cavity, to dizziness, nausea and a clicking sound when opening and closing the mouth.
Treatments for lockjaw TMJ may include visits to the chiropractor or the dentist, Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulator (TENS) therapy, and TMJ exercises.
While TMJ can be caused from stress or a misaligned bite, it can also be caused by an accident or injury. In the case of lockjaw due to a car accident or other injury, chiropractic care may be a treatment option. When you are injured in an accident, your spine, vertebrae and neck can be thrown out of alignment. In some cases, a chiropractic adjustment may align everything and improve the lockjaw condition.
In many cases of lockjaw, the individual has a bad bite which is causing the temporomandibular joint dysfunction and the pain associated with it. Dentists may use an array of treatment approaches, including using a soft decompression appliance to get the patient to relax her jaw, utilizing mouth guards for night-time teeth grinding, and in rare and extreme cases, surgery.
A TENS unit is an instrument that contains electrodes which are placed on the skin near the TMJ joints. The unit passes a small, pulsating electrical current through the electrodes, creating jaw-muscle stimulation which in turn causes the joints to decompress and eventually the muscles to relax.
The purpose behind TMJ exercises is to re-learn how to open and close your jaw correctly, putting less pressure on the "good" side. Stand in front of a mirror and watch what happens as you open your mouth; watch your jaw, and then attempt to correct that while standing in front of the mirror.
Icing the muscles on the outside of the jaw line may also help the swelling and pain.
- Photo Credit Image by Flickr.com, courtesy of Herry Lawford
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