What is TMJ Disorder?  

TMJ stands for temporomandibular joint, but TMJ disorder (also called TMJ syndrome) actually refers to a complex system of muscles, ligaments, and discs that connect your jaw to your skull. This series of muscles and ligaments are responsible for controlling jaw movement thereby allowing you to speak, chew, and swallow. When the temporomandibular joint is injured or becomes inflamed, it can lead to a variety of symptoms including popping of the jaw, nerve inflammation, teeth grinding (also called bruxism), headaches, and even lockjaw. 

Risk Factors for TMJ

Doctors are still working to fully understand what causes TMJ disorder, however, there are several known risk factors that may increase your chances of developing it. Some of these factors include previous jaw injury, misaligned teeth, inflammatory disease such as arthritis, and genetic predisposition. Although many of these risk factors may be considered out of one’s control, there are others that are not. 

Since many of the causes of TMJ are related to stress, people who have a particularly difficult time dealing with stressful situations may be more prone to developing TMJ disorder. This is because stress often causes destructive habits such as jaw-clenching and teeth-grinding. For those who have these problems, behavior modification has been found to provide some relief but the success rate is limited. Some stress-related behaviors take place at night while the person is sleeping, and therefore, it can be difficult to make effective and lasting habit changes.

Another common risk factor is related to posture. People with particularly poor posture whose head, neck, and body are not properly aligned can suffer from neck strain. Over time, this can cause stress to the muscles and ligaments around your jaw, influencing the possible development of TMJ disorder.    

Causes of TMJ Disorder

The exact cause of TMJ disorder is not fully understood, but there are several thoughts on what can cause it. Oftentimes, TMJ is found in people who are managing high levels of stress as they have a higher tendency to clench their jaw. Another common factor is the prevalence of autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis. Because autoimmune conditions often involve a wearing away or destruction of the body’s joints, it can cause TMJ disorder if it occurs in the joints of the jaw. 

These are just a couple of examples of possible causes for TMJ disorder. Because there are so many different, and seemingly unrelated causes, diagnosing TMJ disorder can be difficult. That’s why it’s important to visit a movement disorders specialist like Neurology Solutions if you’re having trouble or experiencing symptoms of TMJ.    

TMJ Disorder Symptoms

Do you have jaw pain and suspect that you may have TMJ disorder? While it’s certainly possible, jaw pain alone can have several different causes. If, however, you experience jaw pain and any of these other symptoms, it’s important that you contact an experienced specialist to determine if your symptoms are caused by TMJ or something else. 

Here are just a few of the most common symptoms associated with TMJ:

  • Pain or stiffness in your jaw or neck
  • Pain in one or both of your temporomandibular joints
  • Difficulty or pain while chewing 
  • Pain in and around your ear
  • Popping or clicking sounds in your jaw
  • Headaches
  • Lockjaw which makes it difficult to open or close your mouth

Complications From TMJ

Although many people will initially choose to manage their symptoms through behavior modification or home remedies, if your condition doesn’t improve, it could lead to more serious complications. Without treatment, people living with TMJ may experience increasing pain due to continued joint irritation. This pain can actually spread throughout the jaw, head, and neck making it difficult to focus on daily tasks and likely robbing pain victims of a restful night’s sleep. 

In addition to excruciating pain, people who suffer from prolonged TMJ dysfunction may experience damage to their teeth, deterioration of their hearing, and in most severe cases, permanent lockjaw. When this happens, patients are unable to open or close their jaw, requiring emergency medical attention. 

In addition to serious physical complications, leaving TMJ untreated can cause psychological problems as well. Some people may become depressed or fall victim to an eating disorder as a result of their pain.   

TMJ Disorder Treatment

Because there are so many possible causes, there is no one clear answer on how to treat TMJ disorder. And, because everyone is different, what works for one person may not work for another. However, if you suffer from TMJ disorder, you want to know the fastest and easiest way to feel better. Here’s an overview of some of the ways people have experienced relief.

Self-Treatment Options

When you search the internet you’ll find many self-treatment options and home remedies for TMJ disorder. Some of them include applying ice packs to the painful jaw area, using over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication such as aspirin or ibuprofen, and gently massaging the muscles around your jaw. It is also suggested that you try eating only soft foods for a while and refrain from chewing gum. 

Because TMJ disorder is often associated with high-stress levels, it’s also suggested that people try stress reduction techniques to help them relax and learn to stop clenching their teeth. Everyone’s situation is different, but if you know that you have a problem dealing with stress, you might want to try any number of methods to feel less upset or overwhelmed.

You can make time to disconnect for a period of time by turning off all electronics and making a point to spend quiet time with just yourself or a loved one. Others find that going for a run or practicing yoga can offer the release they need. However you choose to manage your stress is up to you, but it’s important that you take action — not only for preventing or managing TMJ disorder but for your overall health.

Medical Treatment Options

If your TMJ symptoms are recent or mild, you may want to try some of the self-treatment options listed above. However, if your symptoms have persisted for quite some time or are getting worse, it’s important to seek treatment from a medical professional as soon as possible. 

At Neurology Solutions, we’ve helped hundreds of people get relief from their TMJ disorder symptoms through the use of medical Botox®. Many people are familiar with Botox for cosmetic purposes, but there are several medical conditions, such as TMJ, for which it can also be used. 

When injected into the affected area, Botox can relax the jaw muscle enough to reduce clenching and teeth grinding without affecting other actions such as talking and chewing. This quick and effective treatment has been able to provide many of our patients with months of relief.

Contact Neurology Solutions For TMJ Treatment

At Neurology Solutions of Austin, we’ve been helping people for over a decade manage their movement disorders. From Parkinson’s and Dystonia to Temporomandibular Joint disorder and tremor, we’ve treated hundreds of patients using the most current and effective treatments in a comfortable and caring environment.

As a patient of Neurology Solutions, you’ll receive only the best care from our movement disorder specialists and physical therapists. Our multidisciplinary team is equipped with special training and the latest in movement disorder therapies to diagnose and treat a wide range of movement problems.

If you have questions or would like to set up an appointment, please contact a member of our team. We’re here to help you find relief from your symptoms so you can live your life to its fullest! Interested in learning more about what we do? Visit our website or join our email list to stay up to date with the latest news and treatment information.