Temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJ disorders) can be very disabling for sufferers. The temporomandibular joint is the one that joins your lower jaw to your skull, and can be felt if you press lightly just in front of your ear and move your jaw. This ‘jaw joint’ is one of the ones we use most often during the day, every time we talk, bite, chew or yawn. It is a complex set up of bones, muscles and tendons and any one of these parts can become inflamed and sore.
Many things can lead to TMJ disorders, but the most common are:
–Dental problems and misalignment of teeth. This can be caused by TMJ or lead to TMJ as sufferers chew on one side of their mouth.
–Teeth grinding or clenching can lead to TMJ disorder by wearing the cartilage of the joint. This behavior often occurs during sleep and the sufferer is unaware they are doing it until they are told, but they wake up every morning with a stiff or painful jaw.
–A history of a facial injury. Fractured jaws, or other facial bones, can lead to TMJ disorder.
–Chewing gum or nail biting. This is an overuse issue.
–Stress, because it can lead to jaw clenching or teeth grinding.
–Occupational issues, such as holding a telephone to your ear with your shoulder whilst talking.
The most common symptoms are:
–Pain. About eighty percent of sufferers will have headaches and/or facial pain. This pain is worse when opening or closing the jaw.
–Ear pain occurs in about half of all patients, often leading to unnecessary antibiotic treatment for ear infection.
–Sounds. Patients are often aware of grinding and/or clicking noises when they move their jaws.
–Other ear symptoms, such as feelings of “fullness”, dizziness, tinnitus and muffled hearing. This can lead to misdiagnosis as ear infection.
Some natural healing options:
· Rest the jaw. This can mean eating only a soft diet and trying to reverse such behaviors as teeth grinding and clenching.
· Heat or cold packs. Cold packs are best at the start of an attack as they stop blood flow to the area and prevent inflammation. Once it has developed, heat packs work better as they relax the muscles.
· Pain relief with natural anti-inflammatories like MSM (Young Living’s Sulfurzyme is an excellent MSM product), essential fatty acids like fish oils and flax.
–Essential oils can give good relief (of course the therapeutic grade oils, not perfume grade oils). Wintergreen is an effective anti-inflammatory and lavender oil is often indicated in the natural approach to TMJ.
–Indian head massage, healing touch and reiki are also very effective. Seek out qualified practitioners of these healing arts.
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