Last month I wrote an article about headaches, and particularly those related to neck pain (cervicogenic headaches). There is another condition that is closely related to headaches and whilst it may not cause them, there is evidence that it can contribute to the severity and frequency of headaches, namely TMJ dysfunction (Tempro-mandibular Joint); in plain English – jaw problems.
Dysfunction of the jaw, either in the joints or the muscles around them, is often associated with grinding the teeth, clicking in the jaw when chewing, pain when chewing and an inability to open the mouth wide enough.
The structure of the jaw is quite complex; the lower jawbone (mandibular) effectively hangs from the Maxilla. Four different muscles connect to the lower jaw to facilitate its movement. These muscles are the masseter, the temporalis, the medial pterygoid, and the lateral pterygoid. Each of these muscles occurs in pairs, with one of each muscle appearing on either side of the skull. The muscles work in combination to pivot the lower jaw up and down and to allow movement of the jaw from side to side, protraction and retraction.
The masseter muscle, which you can feel just in front and down from your ears when you clench your teeth, is considered, for its size, the strongest muscle in your body. It is easy to understand how, if this muscle becomes very tight, it will not only stop you from opening your mouth but can also impact on how the other muscles around the joint will be affected.
TMJ is also associated with Tinnitus. Tinnitus is not fully understood. Tinnitus is the perception of a sound in the absence of any external noise. It is often described as a ringing, buzzing or humming in the ear and can occur on one side or both. Current thinking is that this is caused by either an ear problem, neck or jaw problem or both.
From a chiropractor’s point of view, I can help when tinnitus is associated with jaw and neck problems. If you suffer from tinnitus and notice a change in the volume or pitch of your tinnitus when you open your mouth, chew or move your head this could indicate that there is a relationship between your tinnitus and a neck or jaw problem.
There are of course those who have jaw problems without tinnitus. By carefully assessing muscle function around the jaw and neck, correction of any problems in that area will help to alleviate or remove the symptoms of, either jaw pain and dysfunction, headaches and tinnitus if it is from a somatosensory origin.
I have clinics in Skibbereen, Douglas and Kinsale if you would like an appointment please call 087 958 2362 or email through my website www.eoinroechiropractic.com.