POP! There it goes again! You opened your mouth at dinner, and your jaw advertised the fact with an audible sound. It may cause no pain just yet, or it may be causing you severe pain.
This is a condition called TMJ, or more specifically, temporomandibular joint syndrome. There are perhaps 11 million people in the U.S. who deal with this syndrome that describes the net effect of what can often be a series of problems.
In TMJ syndrome, the joint of the jaw is out of alignment, causing abusive pressures on the joint. It can be associated with muscle spasms, torn ligaments in the joint, and wearing down of the bone of the joint. This can lead to osteoarthritis and unbelievable pain.
The good news is that it is correctable. Let me list some of the factors that can contribute to TMJ syndrome. This list is not exhaustive. Bad teeth that dont fit together right, a misaligned atlas (the first bone in the neck), a misaligned collarbone, trauma to the head that has knocked the jaw out of position, poor habits of using the jaw (such as grinding the teeth). Whatever the cause of it, TMJ is rarely a simple problem to fix and requires careful diagnosis to identify the contributing factors.
One of the aggressive treatments, and irreversible, is surgery to cut the nerves transmitting pain. Other treatments may be muscle relaxants or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Some other treatments that may be more fun include biofeedback to reduce muscle tension, and physical therapy to strengthen the joint.
The Alexander Technique can be learned, which gives you the ability to be your own biofeedback machine.
Other treatments that actually address some causes of the problem include chiropractic care.
Most chiropractors learn to adjust the TMJ in just the right way so that normal tracking and range of motion is restored. Other chiropractors specialize in correcting the atlas misalignment, if that is demonstrated to be a problem.
Current medical thought is that the problem can be corrected within a matter of two or three months. Depending of course on the factors causing TMJ, chiropractic care has been shown to have an immediate effect on this painful syndrome. So, next time your jaw goes POP, ask yourself how far you want this problem to go.
Dr. Philip Schalow is Rockfords only NUCCA upper cervical chiropractor. He owns 1st Step Chiropractic, S.C. and is ready to help you take the first step back to wellness. 4519 Highcrest Rd., Rockford, Ill., 815-398-4500.