Is it TMJ treatment … or is it my neck?
Are you getting the right TMJ Treatment?
If you are looking for TMJ treatment, you may be astonished to learn that many TMJ problems are actually neck problems in disguise.
Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders are neuromuscular conditions affecting the jaw. Symptoms can range from clicking, grinding teeth, lockjaw (either locked open or locked close), arthritis, headaches, migraines, dizziness. posture problems and even fibromyalgia.
These problems can range from a minor annoyance to life destroying!
Many standard TMJ treatments focus on dental treatments with TMJ specialists using splint therapies, jaw reconstructions, and even surgery in some instances. Other TMJ treatments focus on pain management or muscle relaxant techniques including botox injections or acupuncture.
Did you know that there are actually two types of TMJ treatments?
- Structural TMJ Disorders
- Functional TMJ Disorders
The first type is a craniomandibular or “structural” type of TMJ disorder. These types of TMJ conditions involve skull or dental types of structural issues that cause TMJ problems. These are the types of conditions where direct TMJ treatment such as splints, orthopedic appliances, and other devices can help to restructure the cranial bones and reduce TMJ pain.
However, this is only one type of disorder and TMJ treatment. The second type is a neuromuscular or “functional” type of TMJ disorder. These types of TMJ conditions involve incoordination between the muscles that control jaw movements and the nerves that command them.
If you have ever experienced chronic tight muscles anywhere in your body, have you ever stopped to ask yourself “Why?” Why is it that you can have a massage, stretching, acupuncture, physical therapy, etc but those darn tight muscles keep coming back straight away?
The likely reason is that your brain and your nerve system, which controls those muscles are telling them that they MUST be tight.
In other words, there is something affecting the communication messages from your brain, through your nerves and to your muscles that are causing them to be tight.
So where are the nerves that control the muscles of your TMJ located?
The answer is in your upper neck.
Is it your TMJ? Or is it your atlas?
When I consult with many people describing “jaw pain,” I ask them to point to the spot where they feel their pain is located. What often happens is that many of these people don’t actually point to their TMJ at all, but actually to the tip of the atlas vertebra!
The “atlas” is the proper name for the first cervical vertebra in your neck and is also known as “C1.” The C1 vertebra supports the weight of your skull. Simultaneously, your atlas also pivots on your C2 vertebra, which is also known as the “axis.”
The movement of your atlas is what allows you to rotate your head and also to look up-and-down.
The tips of the C1 vertebra are located on the sides of your neck just below your ear, and approximately 10mm away from your TMJ. In fact, sometimes the tip is actually be hidden behind your jawbone!
The take-home message is that your C1, C2, and TMJ are located all in the exact same area, and thus can produce remarkably similar sensations if they are irritated.
Your C1 and C2 vertebrae protect the base of your brainstem, which is the master control center for every nerve transmission in your body and spine. It is the critical area that controls your health, wellbeing, and life itself!
Of particular interest is a cluster of nerve cells known as the spinal trigeminal nucleus. It is the primary sensory processing center for the messages of pain, position sense, and also muscle activity that occur in your face, head, neck, and also TMJ.
These nerves and nerve centers may be exposed to mechanical irritation, pressure, or tension if you have ever suffered a whiplash of upper neck injury that causes the C1 or C2 vertebra to misalign, even a couple of millimeters.
A recent research review reported “an increase in symptom severity among patients with temporomandibular disorders and a history of whiplash injuries. Additionally, patients with TMD and trauma histories display more severe subjective, objective, and psychological dysfunction.”
When the center of gravity for your skull shifts, your atlas and axis may not be able to support the weight. As part of the compensation strategy, your brain may recruit your head, neck, and shoulder muscles in order to maintain the balance. The result is commonly asymmetrical and tight muscles that people attribute to “bad posture."
Furthermore, irritation of the nerves in the upper neck due to a misalignment of the C1 or C2 vertebra may indirectly affect neuromuscular control of your jaw muscles. In other words, the CAUSE of your tight TMJ muscles may be coming from your neck.
If so, you can just treat the symptoms by focusing on direct TMJ treatment … or you can focus instead on the underlying cause by correcting the alignment of the upper neck as part of your wholistic TMJ treatment approach.
The role of upper cervical care in TMJ treatment
Studies have demonstrated the powerful relationship between TMJ treatment for the upper neck and TMJ disorders. Furthermore, many of these studies emphasize the need to co-care between dental TMJ specialists and experts in upper neck health.
In other words, TMJ treatment works best with a team of practitioners working to help you.
When it comes to the health of your upper neck and on the relationship between the alignment of your C1 and C2 vertebrae, the leaders and experts in this field are known as “upper cervical doctors.”
An upper cervical doctor isn’t actually a medical GP or even a dentist. It is actually a chiropractor, who has completed advanced study and certifications beyond just the standard university degree.
Upper cervical chiropractic is a special branch that has been developed and researched in the USA. The procedures involve a detailed analysis of the alignment of your neck using computerized diagnostic scanning and also 3D advanced imaging which shows the exact degree and direction of any misalignments in your neck that could be affecting your nerve system and health.
With this level of precision, upper cervical chiropractic then is able to select an adjustment specifically designed for you with the least amount of force and the greatest chance of success.
The upper cervical procedure that we use at Atlas Health Brisbane is known as the Blair Technique. Unlike general spinal manipulation, the Blair Technique does not use any neck twisting, cracking, or popping. The procedure is light and specific, using only the force that you would use to feel your pulse.
As light as it is, many people with TMJ problems are amazing how much improvement they may experience.
Is an atlas alignment the right TMJ treatment for you?
If you are looking for a natural, drug-free approach to TMJ treatment, upper cervical care may be the missing piece of the puzzle.
Our practice, Atlas Health, is the premier Blair upper cervical chiropractic center in Australia. Our mission is to help people experiencing chronic health issues - including people seeking TMJ treatment - find hope, healing, and longterm solutions for their wellbeing. We are located in North Lakes (north Brisbane) and accept clients from across Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, and even internationally.
Our principal chiropractic doctor is Dr. Jeffrey Hannah. Dr. Hannah is advanced board certified in the Blair upper cervical technique and has also studied many other upper cervical techniques including Atlas Orthogonal (AO), NUCCA, and the QSM3 work. He is a published author, international lecturer, and recognized expert in the field of upper cervical chiropractic care.
We hope that you have found value and hope in reading this article for TMJ treatment.
If so, we would like to hear from you. Our practice offers a complimentary over-the-phone consolation with Dr. Hannah so that you can speak directly with him, discuss the individual details of your case and ask any question you may have to decide if care is right for you.
You can reach us at our office on 07 3188 9329.
Alternatively, you can click the Contact Us link at the top of our page, and one of our staff with return your email with 48 hours.
So if you are ready to try a different approach to TMJ treatment, it would be our privilege and pleasure to assist you. We look forward to hearing from you.
Atlas Health Australia - “A passion and purpose for helping people live life again.
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