A recent report looked at how dentists working alongside specific treatments for the upper neck (namely the C1 and C2 vertebrae) can substantially help improve the alignment of the jaw and alignment of the neck. The particular study looked at people with temporomandibular disorders (TMD) who received physical therapy in the form of upper neck mobilisation (more on that later) and was then prescribed specific types of dental occlusal splints in order to facilitate normal motion and alignment in the jaw and upper neck. What the researchers found was that the two therapies work best when combined.
This finding supports what we have said for years that the alignment and motion of the jaw affect the upper neck, and the alignment and motion of the upper neck affect the jaw. Especially when working with TMJ types of disorders, it is therefore important to work not only with the right kind of dentist but also the right kind of practitioner who focuses on the health of the upper neck.
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In this particular study, it was a physical therapist that was working with the dentists to help with the TMJ conditions. Of note, however, what they were performing are different methods that are also used commonly among what are known as specific upper cervical chiropractors. Unlike general spinal manipulative therapy, upper cervical chiropractic does not use twisting, stretching, or cracking in the upper neck. Instead, they perform a series of very precise measurements in order to provide specific corrections that restore normal motion and alignment through the upper neck. Now, people with TMJ disorders usually want to know at this point who they need to see if they have a TMJ issue and also a neck issue.
While we may be biased in our opinion, we believe that is actually a sequence of practitioners that works for helping people undergoing dental therapy for TMJ issues. In this case, and although the circumstance or priority of care may be different among different people, we typically recommend starting with the upper cervical chiropractor. Why?
In brief, it is because the alignment and motion of the upper neck affect how the TMJ moves. The C1 and C2 vertebrae in particular also have a profound impact on the neurological supply to the muscles that supply the jaw. If so, it is possible to do all the myofascial activities to rehabilitate the jaw, but if things are not freely mobile, it works AGAINST the stream and is typically much more difficult than needs to be. So,
Step #1 is making sure that the upper neck is free and mobile as much as possible.
Step #2 then is working with your dental specialist to get the jaw moving as well as possible. A dental specialist may also recommend additional assistance via osteopaths and/or myofunctional therapists if there are certain cranial or neurological issues that need to be worked on as well beyond the upper neck.
Step #3 then is once things start moving AND are freely mobile in both the upper neck and the jaw, THAT is the best time for the physiotherapy to work in our opinion. Again, it is better to work with rather than against the stream.
So in this way, we hope that we may clarify that when it comes to the upper neck and TMJ issues, there is seldom ever a one-stop-shop (in large part because many people’s TMJ conditions are incredibly diverse and require a range of different approaches all working together). Therefore, it is important to have the right team working together and in the appropriate sequence so that you can get the best possible results.
Upper Cervical Chiropractic and TMJ Therapy
Although it is not common, there are fortunately a variety of head, neck, and jaw physiotherapists available throughout Australia. Unfortunately (at least in our opinion), there are far fewer upper cervical specific chiropractors (in large part because learning UC chiropractic required people to travel overseas where it is studied as a special division). Ideally, the two would be working together, but when it comes to choice, there isn’t near as much. Nevertheless, here is where we may be able to assist.
Atlas Health is one of the leaders in upper cervical chiropractic in Australia. Our clinic located in North Lakes (north Brisbane) works with people from around Australia with a variety of health concerns including TMJ disorders. Our focus is on identifying and addressing the root cause (and not just the symptoms) of disorders related to the upper neck including TMJ, headaches, migraines, and neuralgia so that people can get back to enjoying the things in life that matter most to them. The approach that we use (known as the Blair Technique) is a precise and individualised approach to healthcare that recognised the unique architectural differences that often make all the difference in helping people with chronic TMJ disorders.
The Blair Technique is similar to what is known as the NUCCA and Atlas Orthogonal methods in that we perform a targeted physical and neurological assessment, and then perform detailed diagnostic images that reveal the exact location, directions, and degree of misalignment in your neck so that we may be able to provide a tailored treatment program designed to suit your individual needs.
It is in these details that we often find things that are ever so slightly different from other practitioners including general chiropractors and physiotherapists. And with those details, that is where we are often able to make the difference so that things can all work together as they are designed. To find out if upper cervical chiropractic and the Blair Technique are right for you, we offer a 15-minute complimentary over-the-phone consultation where you can speak with one of our doctors. Click the contact us link on this page or call us direct at 07 3188 9329.
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