TMJ Treatment works better with Upper Neck Treatment

Posted in TMJ Disorder on Sep 26, 2022

Yet another study has demonstrated that people suffering temporomandibular joint (TMJ) dysfunction that they experience better results when addressing the problems not only with the TMJ but also in the upper neck region.

As a brief summary, a team of researchers at the Iran University of Medical Sciences compared

1) TMJ pain

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2) maximum ability to open the mouth, and

3) neck mobility in patients with and without TMJ problems, and then divided research subjects into two groups:

  • received therapy of the TMJ only
  • received therapy of the TMJ PLUS the upper neck

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The researchers found that both groups experienced significant improvements with TMJ pain and their ability to open their mouths, but only the group that received care focusing on the upper neck region experienced benefits there.

However, the real interesting part was that the group who received care for the upper neck also experienced BETTER RESULTS with their levels of TMJ pain and ability to open their mouth than the group that receives direct treatment for their TMJ only.

The Connection between your TMJ and your Upper Neck

These results support what we have been saying for years now (and also findings from other research published earlier this year) about the connection and the relationship between your upper neck and your TMJ. If you were to hook up an EMG scanner to the muscles in your upper neck, you would find that when you move your mouth that the muscles in the back of your upper neck activate at the exact same time. (If you have very sensitive fingertips, you may also palpate this phenomenon yourself).

However, the flip is also true, if you were to hook up an EMG scanner to the muscles that support your TMJ, you would find that when you move your neck that the muscles on your face also activate at the exact same time. The reason for this is that your TMJ and the vertebrae in your upper neck (namely the C1 and C2 vertebrae and their associated nerves) work as a functional unit. In other words, they work together. That being the case, we may appreciate that a problem that affects one will affect the other.

For people who experience TMJ problems and associated symptoms - headaches, migraines, TMJ pain, grinding, clenching, neck pain. dizziness, vertigo, and even stranger symptoms such as chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, and even vasovagal symptoms such as POTS (positional orthostatic tachycardia syndrome) - means that it is important to look at both factors.

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TMJ Treatment - The Dental Half of the Solution

We often use the analogy with TMJ disorders that we are dealing with a problem when your brain and body are effectively parallel parked in super tight on both sides. Thus, in order to get out of the situation, it is frequently necessary to have a team of healthcare professionals assisting you rather than just having one person be able to solve all the problems for you.

On the TMJ side of the equation, a neuromuscular dentist or TMJ specialist dentist is often the right portal of entry. Rather than general dentistry or even orthodontics that may recommend braces or a splint to straighten your teeth, a TMJ specialist dentist recognizes that it is more important that your TMJ is functionally HAPPY versus perfectly straight. In other words, it is better to have a $500,000 smile than a million-dollar smile (and we should hope it doesn’t cost that!).

Thus, working did not find where your TMJ sits and moves with the least amount of pressure and irritation is the better way, in our opinion, in order to resolve TMJ issues. Often, neuromuscular dentists also work with myofascial therapists, who focus on rehabilitating the muscles that assist with chewing and moving your jaw. Note: the reason that any of this matters is that you can’t disconnect one muscle on your face without affecting all of the others. Thus, if you have a problem with your TMJ muscles, it also affects all the mother muscles on your scalp, which is one reason why headaches and migraines are so common for people with TMJ disorders.

TMJ Treatment - The Upper Cervical Half of the Solution

The other half of the equation for helping TMJ disorders means addressing the underlying neuromuscular problems in the upper neck region. Here is where a unique method of chiropractic known as upper cervical specific care is able to help. In brief, upper cervical specific is a special division of general chiropractic that focuses on the alignment, mobility, and stability of the vertebrae in your upper neck called the atlas (C1) and axis (C2). 

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Unlike general spinal manipulation, upper cervical care does not use any stretching, twisting, or cracking of the neck. Instead, it uses a series of precise and gentle corrections in order to restore normal function between brain and body so that your central nervous system can do what it is designed to do: heal itself. The other major difference is the level of detail that does into an upper cervical assessment. Rather than leaving matters to chance, an upper cervical-specific chiropractic doctor will perform a series of diagnostic tests that help determine the exact location, direction, and degree of misalignment in your neck so that any treatment you receive is truly custom-tailored to suit your individual needs.

There is seldom a quick and easy one-size-fits-all solution for people who experience TMJ disorders. Nevertheless, by recognising the different elements and not simply focusing on the symptoms (effects) but looking at the whole of the situation which includes not only the TMJ but also your upper neck, people can have a much greater chance of success and finally experiencing the relief and health improvements that they are looking for.


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