TMJ Pain... Let's talk about it

Time for some jaw-dropping material, folks. If you’ve ever had jaw pain, neck pain or shoulder pain, you’re going to want to take a big bite out of this one. We’re going to talk about TMJ disorder. So common in individuals that it affects more than 3 million a year.

For starters, the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is the most used joint in the human body. Whether you are gabbing away at the water cooler, masticating your meal or grinding down to your gum-line, the TMJ is likely one of the most devoted departments to your corporal corporation. Let’s break it on down.

“temporo” = the temporal bone in your skull. “mandibular” = the mandible, or jaw. “joint” = the moving part where two parts work together.

This joint is referred to as a sliding “hinge” joint – much like how most doors operate. It has two directions – to open (depress the jaw) and to close.

Location: Trace the line of your jaw until you run into your ear lobe. Bring your sensors to the front and upwards (towards the top of your head) about a thumb’s width. The best way to put this joint in your crosshairs is to bite down and/or depress your jaw. Where the moving bits meet the non-moving bit is where you want to be.

What contributes to TMJ pain?

It’s more common that you’d think to associate TMJ disorder with neck and shoulder pain. When the head is pushed forward (or protracted) by one inch, the pull of the neck muscles are working as if you had added 10 pounds to it. Because it would be unnatural (and socially unacceptable) to walk with our heads forward without keeping our eyes level to the horizon, we tend to push our head forward AND look slightly upward.


Check your posture as you read this article. Notice if you are jutting your head forward to get closer to the screen and, if you are, draw attention to the upper cervical muscles behind your head. Now, if they seem taught to you, as if someone was using them as tension wire for a balancing act, try to let them relax by dropping your gaze from the computer down towards your lap.

What does this have to do with the jaw?

Adding cervical tension to neck muscles like the suboccipitals, splenius capitus, and splenius cervicus will contribute to intra-cranial pressure. The muscles attached to C1 and C2 are, often, my first targets when I treat my clients with TMJ disorder for this reason. The same can be said for the pterygoid and other muscles can can produce a clicking or tightness in your jaw.

How is it treated?

Chiropractic adjustments and stretches are preferred - although, sometimes, it might lead to surgery. Seek your local dentist for advice in that area. An effective way to treat jaw pain or TMJ pain is with massage therapy using a clinical approach. If you struggle with jaw pain like this, call or click below to schedule your appointment today.