Do you experience pain and stiffness near your temples or the front of your ear when you chew or open your jaw wide? If so, you probably have temporomandibular joint pain, also known as TMJ pain. Some patients with this condition also experience locking of the jaw, a clicking noise when they chew, and repeated headaches and earaches.

Many patients with TMJ address their symptoms by popping pain pills, but there is a more natural way to approach the disorder. Your chiropractor is an excellent resource when it comes to alleviating TMJ pain and addressing its root causes, so that the pain does not come back again.

What causes TMJ pain?

In most cases, TMJ pain is caused by misalignment of the jaw or tension in the muscles surrounding the jaw bones. This tension can be brought on by a former injury to the jaw, or it may be caused by something as simple as sleeping in a position that places stress on your jaw. Stress can contribute to TMJ pain if it causes you to clench your jaw or grind your teeth.

How do chiropractors diagnose TMJ pain?

When you visit a chiropractor like Wilson Angie with a complaint of symptoms that suggest TMJ pain, he or she will begin by performing a few tests to confirm the diagnosis. Sometimes decayed teeth or ear infections can cause symptoms that mimic those of TMJ pain.

The tests your chiropractor will perform are simple and painless. You'll likely be asked to chew repeatedly as your chiropractor closely observes your jaw action. In some cases, an X-ray may be used to detect signs of jaw misalignment.

How do chiropractors treat TMJ?

Chiropractic treatment for TMJ is an ongoing process, but it's completely safe. Once your chiropractor confirms your diagnosis, he or she will likely begin by gently manipulating your jaw to place the joint back in alignment. Massage may also be used to ease muscle tension. Some chiropractors also use heat or ice therapy to ease TMJ pain.

Returning to your chiropractor for follow-up visits will be the key to permanently easing your TMJ pain. Depending on your individual case, your chiropractor may show you certain exercises to perform at home to relieve your pain between appointments. He or she may also suggest sleeping on your back instead of on your front or side, since this places less pressure on the jaw.

It's really hard to live with TMJ pain, and thanks to your chiropractor, you don't have to. Treat your TMJ the natural way with chiropractic joint manipulation, massage and ice therapy, and you'll have no worry of side effects -- just relief.