TMJ and Associated Headaches

Common symptoms of the Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder such as jaw pain, clicking or popping of the jaw, and clenching are well known, but did you know that you can experience symptoms of TMJ throughout your whole body? TMJ disorders can be difficult to diagnose when your symptoms are not restricted to the jaw area, so to make diagnosis easier we’ve listed some symptoms you might be surprised to find out are related to TMJ!

Because the jaw muscles run from ear to ear, TMJ related jaw pain can also trigger ear pain, which is often mistaken for an ear infection. The pain actually doesn’t come from the ear at all, but originates directly beneath or in front of the ear.
Neck pain:
The temporomandibular joint plays a major role in keeping the head balanced on top of the spinal chord. The head weighs roughly 8 pounds, but bad posture due to joint misalignment causes this weight to be distributed unevenly, putting added stress on the neck and spine and causing the head to have a 30-pound pull on your muscles. No wonder neck and back pain are symptoms of a TMJ disorder!
Pinched nerves:
When TMJ alignment is skewed, your muscles overwork themselves to compensate for the imbalance. The back is prone to TMJ related pain, as it becomes strained in order to maintain the body’s balance. This tension can lead to numbness in your extremities, so if you’re experiencing any tingling sensations in your arms, legs, fingers, or toes, it could be a sign of a TMJ disorder.
Obstructed airways:
The tongue is attached to the lower jaw, so the position of the tongue in the mouth depends on your jaw alignment. Misalignment of the lower jaw could cause your tongue to sit too far back in the mouth and obstruct your airways. If your breathing feels abnormal, especially while sleeping, a TMJ disorder could be the culprit.
A Holistic Approach
There are several things to consider when dealing with TMJ.

1.  Pinched nerves in the neck, cranium, or jaw.
These issues are easily resolved with chiropractic adjustments: light force treatments to the involved areas to re-align joints.

2.  Lymphatic drainage.
Lymphatic drainage in the head and neck is extremely important when it comes to TMJ.  Improper drainage of the head and neck can cause a back-up of toxins and debris to accumulate.  The parotid gland being of particular importance due to the closeness of this lymphatic vessel to the TMJ joint.  Blockages along the lymphatic  pathways can congest the head and neck and result in pain.

3. Meridian Pathways.
Meridians are electrical pathways through the skin where electricity passes from one point to another.  Restrictions or blockages along these pathways will result in mal-function to the areas involved.  For example, the stomach, small intestine, large intestine, bladder, gall bladder, and triple warmer meridians all have a pathway that is over or next to the TMJ joint.  What this means is that a blockage along any of these pathways could create an issue with the TMJ joint.

4.  Reflexology
Reflexology is the study of reflexes and how they relate to the health of your organs and systems.  We already know that the stomach, small intestine, large intestine, bladder, gall bladder, and triple warmer meridians can affect the TMJ joint.  There are also reflexes associated with these meridians that need to be evaluated as well.  In addition to the reflexes associated with the meridian pathways, there are a few other reflexes that will contribute to the TMJ joint.  They are the Lymph node reflex, the spleen reflex (both associated with the lymphatic system of the body), and the right and left allergy reflexes because of there close proximity to the TMJ joint.

5. Muscles
Pains and discomfort in any of these muscles could affect the TMJ joint.
Front, side, and back neck muscles
Biceps: upper arm muscles
Pectoralis Major: chest muscles
Quadriceps: front of thigh
Abdominals: stomach muscles
Hamstrings: back of thighs
Quadratus Lumborum: lower back muscles
Peroneus: calf muscle
Sacrospinalis: large muscle running down the spine
Tibial: shin muscle
Deltoid: shoulder muscle
Teres Minor: shoulder muscle
Sartorius: thigh muscle
Gracilis: inner thigh muscle
Soleus: calf muscle

Where do we start?
The first place to start is with an exam.  Your exam will include evaluating everything just discussed.  If you are struggling with TMJ and related headaches, then maybe it's time to try a more detailed approach.  Call or e-mail any questions.  I hope that this information was helpful.