TMJ disorder and osteopathy

TMJ disorder and osteopathy

JUSTINE GAPIHAN, DOMP

Are you suffering from shoulder pain, neck pain, headaches, hearing disturbances or feeling dizzy? Did you know that it may be your TMJ that is responsible for your symptoms? 

TMJ (Temporo-Mandibular Joint) is located in front of the ear. This is a joint in between the mandibular bone, that is supporting the lower teeth and the temporal bone, which is one of the bones of the skull. This last one is the main bone that constitutes the ear. Between these two different bones, there is a disk called the “meniscus”, to allow the bones to connect to each other. Many muscles and ligaments are connected to this joint as well.

The mandible is a mobile bone in the face. It plays a huge part in the general balance of the body. It reflects the body’s posture. Any tightness in the rest of the body could disturb the mandible and then the TMJ.

When the TMJ doesn’t work normally, it may explain why muscles are over contracted. This can mean that the neck is compensating, and because the neck is connected to the shoulder, this could result in some shoulder pain. If these muscles are tight, because they are close to nerves that travel through the arms, you can easily imagine that, the right information can’t travel to nerve endings in the hands, for example, which could explain some numbness in the upper extremities.

If the neck’s mobility is very restricted, muscles that are holding on to the cervical bones going to the skull, are very tender. Any trigger point in this area could explain symptoms, like headaches.

Especially out of the second cervical bone (C2), there is a nerve called “Arnold” that may be responsible for headaches if there is any tightness in this area. The Arnold nerve travels to neck muscles but also makes the innervation of the scalp. Usually the pain starts in the upper neck, goes to the occipital bone, top of the skull, until the frontal bone and behind the eye. Eyebrow and ear areas could also be painful because of this nerve.

For patients who are clenching their teeth, it would be wise to see the dentist to wear a mouth guard if necessary. This is very complementary to osteopathy. This may prevent having overtight muscles (especially pterygoid muscles).

TMJ can be misbalanced because of stress. But also because of a big fall or a MVA (Motor Vehicle Accident), that could explain a TMJ disorder due to the whiplash.

The goal in osteopathy is to find where the problem is coming from. We check the whole body from the feet up to the head in order to find the origin of misbalance. By relaxing the TMJ, some muscles, giving more mobility to the different bones, working on the fascia, and liberating some nerves, it can be very helpful for relieving symptoms like headaches, shoulder pain and neck pain.

Justine Gapihan is on osteopathic manual practitioner who treats a variety of complaints. From sprains and strains to digestive issues, postural strain and more. She has experience treating infants and children. You can learn more about Justine on her practitioner profile.