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TMJ (temperomandibular joint) syndrome is a painful condition caused by a dysfunction of the joint that connects the temporal bones to the lower jawbone. Often, a misalignment combined with jaw clenching can wear out the cartilage causing the bone to rub together rather than smoothly gliding as intended. When this joint does not function properly, pain can radiate from the jaw to the face, neck and shoulder.
TMJ is exacerbated by stress and poor diet. Treatment for TMJ needs to be a multilevel treatment meant to improve diet, relieve stress and limit jaw clenching. Certain foods are more stressful than others such as "junk" foods that are high in sugar or beverages containing caffeine. Jaw clenching will be lessened through stress management and adjusting sleeping position (lying on your back instead of your side or stomach). You may also benefit from a mouth guard designed to protect the teeth and lessen the impact of jaw clenching and teeth grinding throughout the night.
Massage is highly effective in treating TMJ both directly and indirectly. In a French study, 15 patients presenting with TMJ were treated with massage of the lateral pterygoid muscle. The results showed that joint clicking was solved in 80% and pain in 50% of the cases.1
Indirectly, massage has long been effective in relieving stress by releasing endorphins and producing a sense of calm. Massage can also relieve muscle tension and pain in the shoulders and neck.
To see if massage therapy can help with your jaw or TMJ pain, give our office a call.
Barriere P, Zink S, Riehm S, et al. Massage of the lateral pterygoid muscle in acute TMJ dysfunction syndrome. Rev Stomatol Chir Maxillofac 2009.