No one wants to live in pain. One of the best ways to treat physical pain is knowing what the root cause is. However, for some conditions like the temporomandibular joint disorder—also known as TMJ disorder or TMD—detection can be tough. 

Symptoms of TMJ disorder may often seem like an ordinary headache or migraine at first. However, over time, more frustrating TMJ symptoms may arise such as pain or tenderness in the jaw that affects your ability to chew or even move your jaw. These aches are also often accompanied by ear aches, hearing problems or tinnitus. 

Causes of Temporomandibular Joint Disorder

The Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) is a composed of muscles, ligaments, bones, and discs that connect your jaw to the skull. The TMJ is responsible for moving your jaw side to side, backward or forward. When you develop problems in your TMJ—often due to misalignment—you can feel the pain in your neck, head, and in your jaw as well. Here are the most common causes of TMJ disorder:

  • An injury or heavy blow to the teeth or jaw.
  • Stress or anxiety that causes tight or tensed facial muscles.
  • Chronic teeth grinding or jaw clenching, also known as bruxism.
  • Poor posture. 
  • Arthritis or damage in the TMJ. 
  • Excessive strain on the joint or muscle group. 

There is no scientific evidence that wearing orthodontic braces causes TMJ disorder. A clicking sound in the jaw without pain also does not indicate the presence of a join disorder—jaw sounds are believed to be fairly common in the general population. However, if jaw noises are accompanied by pain, it is best not to ignore it. 

Classifications of TMJ

In order to determine the best type of treatment and pain management techniques, it is important to identify the classification of your TMD. The following classifications of TMD were determined by The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research:

  • Jaw dislocation or disc displacement – At times this can be severe enough to interfere with chewing. You may also observe limited movement when trying to open or close your jaw. 
  • Myofascial pain – The most common type of TMD that causes altered jaw movement. Discomfort in the fascia and other surrounding muscles can also be observed. 
  • Degenerative joint disease – This means that osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis is present in the temporomandibular joint (TMJ).

Pain Relief and Treatments for TMJ

Since pain in the masseter muscle is often the culprit of TMD, you can find relief by practicing self-care for your temporomandibular joint. 

  • Apply hot or cold packs to the affected area for ten minutes several times a day. 
  • Eat soft food and avoid food that require wide bites. 
  • Avoid resting your chin on your hand for long periods and other unnecessary wide jaw movements. 
  • Take time to relax. There are several techniques that can help loosen your jaw and prevent it from becoming enflamed. Massage therapy is known to be beneficial for some people with TMJ disorders. 

Massage Therapy for TMJ Pain Relief

If you are looking for alternative treatment for TMJ disorder rather than taking over the counter drugs, talk to a certified massage therapist who has comprehensive understanding about the TMJ musculature. 

Since stress and anxiety can trigger TMJ pain, the massage therapist may perform trigger point massage to manually mend your stiff muscles in the jaw, neck, or back to ease the pain. Aside from pain relief for your TMJ disorder, massage therapy can also help you feel relaxed and more centered. Allow the massage therapist to assess your condition in order to find the most ideal massage technique for TMJ.