For many of us, the facial movements we make every day – like smiling, talking, or even chewing – are just second-nature. But for those suffering from Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJ), any movement can quickly turn into a painful experience.
It can be difficult to find a solution that offers long-term relief without the need for medications and other invasive treatments, but thankfully there are several ways of reducing TMJ pain. In this blog post, we’ll explore the causes, symptoms, and how to cure TMJ permanently and with no side effects.
What Is TMJ?
The Temporomandibular Joint connects our skull to our lower jaw, allowing our jaws to move smoothly in all directions. However, when things go wrong, we can experience jaw pain and discomfort, and this is known as TMJ disorder. With as many as 10 million Americans affected by TMJ disorders, you’re not alone if you’re struggling with this issue.
What Are the Most Common Symptoms of a TMJ Disorder?
TMJ disorders can be pretty uncomfortable – here are some signs to look out for:
- Pain in the jaw or temporomandibular joints
- Aching pain in and around the ear
- Struggling to chew, or experiencing pain when doing so
- Shoulder or neck pain
- An aching facial pain
- Difficulty opening or closing your mouth
- A clicking sound when you open your mouth or chew
If you experience any of these symptoms, it’s essential to address them promptly.
Who Is Likely to Have It?
Are you at risk of a TMJ disorder? There are a variety of factors to consider, from age and gender to genetics, chronic pain, bruxism, jaw injury, arthritis, and connective tissue diseases.
While the exact cause of TMJ disorder isn’t always clear, research suggests a link between trauma and TMJ pain. Individuals who have experienced trauma, such as PTSD, might be more likely to develop TMJ pain due to chronic jaw muscle tension or teeth grinding and clenching.
Women are more likely than men to experience the condition – especially those aged 18-44 – but anyone can be affected. If you have a family history of high-stress levels or inflammation, are prone to grinding/clenching your teeth, or have suffered from other conditions like lower back pain or migraines before, you may be at risk. 
Plus, if you’ve had a previous facial or mouth injury, or suffer from connective tissue diseases, you could be at risk of having TMJ.
What Causes TMJ?
The exact causes of TMJ disorder are not always clear, but here are some of the most common factors that can contribute to the development of the condition:
Trauma or injury to the jaw or TMJ
A blow to the jaw or a car accident that affects the jaw can cause damage to the TMJ, leading to pain and dysfunction.
Overuse or strain of the muscles responsible for controlling the jaw can lead to TMJ pain. This may result from excessive chewing, grinding or clenching of teeth (bruxism), stress, or poor posture.
Arthritis, dislocation, or injury to the joint can cause TMJ disorders. Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are two common types that may affect the TMJ.
The TMJ has a soft cartilaginous disk that acts as a cushion between the jawbone and the skull. If the disk erodes, moves out of alignment, or is damaged, it can lead to TMJ pain and dysfunction.
Misaligned teeth or an uneven bite can place stress on the TMJ, potentially causing pain and dysfunction.
Connective tissue diseases
Some systemic diseases, such as lupus and scleroderma, can affect the connective tissues around the TMJ and cause pain.
Anxiety, stress and tension
Anxiety, emotional stress and tension can cause a person to clench their jaw or grind their teeth, which can contribute to TMJ disorder. We will dive into this more below.
Research suggests a link between trauma and TMJ pain. Individuals who have experienced trauma, such as PTSD, might be more likely to develop TMJ pain due to chronic jaw muscle tension or teeth grinding and clenching.
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The #1 Overlooked Cause of TMJ Pain
The impact of depression, stress and anxiety on the body, particularly on the Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ), cannot be overstated    .
When one suffers from chronic stress, anxiety, depression, or trauma (PTSD), their nervous system health is often in jeopardy. Over time, when stress, anxiety, or trauma are left untreated, the nervous system becomes dysregulated and the body’s response to stress becomes amplified. Research shows a strong link between nervous system dysregulation and TMJ disorders.
So, what is a dysregulated nervous system?
Emotional or psychological stressors, chronic stress, anxiety, and trauma can all trigger our body’s natural “fight or flight” response, releasing hormones that prepare us to respond to perceived threats and increase inflammation in the body.
It’s important to note that the fight or flight response is a natural and essential survival mechanism that helps protect us from harm. However, when this response is triggered frequently it can lead to negative health consequences.
Individuals who suffer from chronic stress, anxiety, or PTSD (and an overactive or hypervigilant stress response) often develop a dysregulated nervous system. This amplified stress response can lead to chronic muscle tension and inflammation in the jaw muscles. This can cause the TMJ to become misaligned, resulting in pain, clicking or popping sounds, and difficulty opening and closing the jaw .
Chronic stress or anxiety can further exacerbate the situation by dysregulating the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, a critical component of our stress response system. This dysregulation can lead to elevated levels of stress hormones such as cortisol, which can cause inflammation and muscle tension in the body. In turn, this can increase the likelihood of developing TMJ disorders.
In addition to causing physical tension, stress and anxiety can also result in teeth clenching or grinding, also known as bruxism. This can put additional strain on the TMJ and its surrounding muscles, particularly during sleep when individuals may be unaware of their actions. Over time, this can exacerbate TMJ symptoms and cause further misalignment of the joint.
A dysregulated nervous system can impact TMJ pain and contribute to TMJ disorders in several ways:
1. Altered pain perception: A dysregulated nervous system may cause an individual to perceive pain differently or more intensely. This can lead to heightened sensitivity to TMJ pain, making it more pronounced and difficult to manage.
2. Stress and muscle tension: Stress can lead to a dysregulated nervous system, which in turn can cause muscle tension, including the muscles surrounding the temporomandibular joint. Increased muscle tension can lead to TMJ pain, as well as exacerbate existing TMJ disorders.
3. Bruxism: A dysregulated nervous system can contribute to bruxism (teeth grinding or clenching), which can place stress on the TMJ and cause pain or dysfunction. Bruxism often occurs during sleep, and stress is a known contributing factor.
4. Trigeminal nerve sensitivity: The trigeminal nerve is a cranial nerve responsible for facial sensation and motor function, including the muscles used for chewing. A dysregulated nervous system may cause increased sensitivity or activation of the trigeminal nerve, leading to pain and muscle tension around the TMJ.
5. Autonomic dysfunction: The autonomic nervous system regulates involuntary bodily functions, including blood flow and inflammation. A dysregulated autonomic nervous system may contribute to increased inflammation or impaired blood flow around the TMJ, potentially exacerbating pain and dysfunction.
6. Central sensitization: This refers to a process where the nervous system becomes more sensitive to pain signals, making it easier to trigger pain responses. In the context of TMJ disorders, central sensitization can lead to increased pain and discomfort even with minor jaw movements or pressure on the joint.
Addressing nervous system dysregulation, through techniques such as stress management, relaxation techniques, and therapies targeting the nervous system, may help alleviate TMJ pain and improve overall function.
How to Treat TMJ Pain
It is important to note that TMJ disorders can have multiple causes, and in some cases, the exact cause may be unclear. Treatment for TMJ pain depends on the underlying cause and can range from self-care measures and physical therapy to medications and surgical interventions. If you suspect you have a TMJ disorder, it’s important to consult with a healthcare professional for proper diagnosis and treatment.
Let’s explore some of the current treatment options available for managing TMJ disorder, including their effectiveness and potential limitations:
Physical therapy is a popular treatment option for TMJ disorder, as it offers a customized approach to address each patient’s unique needs. A physical therapist can design a tailored treatment plan that includes exercises to strengthen the jaw muscles, improve the range of motion, and reduce pain. Techniques such as ultrasound, moist heat, and massage may also be employed to alleviate symptoms. Physical therapy can be an effective, non-invasive treatment for many patients.  
At-home exercises can help alleviate TMJ pain and improve jaw function. These may include gentle stretching, relaxation techniques, and massage. While these exercises can provide relief for some individuals, they may not be sufficient for those with more severe TMJ symptoms.
Nervous System Regulation and Stress Management
Stress management techniques like deep breathing, meditation, and yoga can be helpful in managing TMJ symptoms, as stress is often a key contributing factor to the disorder. Regulating the nervous system is a powerful way to reduce TMJ symptoms.
Hot and Cold Therapy
Hot and cold therapy is a simple yet effective approach to managing TMJ pain. Applying a warm compress or ice pack to the affected area can help reduce inflammation and relieve pain. Additionally, a warm, damp towel or heating pad can be used to relax the muscles. This treatment is easily accessible and can be done at home, making it a convenient option for TMJ sufferers.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen or aspirin, can help reduce pain and inflammation associated with TMJ disorder. However, it’s crucial to consult with a healthcare provider before taking any medication, as long-term use of NSAIDs can have negative effects, such as gastrointestinal issues or increased risk of heart attack.
Diet modification, such as avoiding hard or chewy foods, can help alleviate TMJ discomfort. However, it is worth noting that some experts argue that more challenging foods to chew can be beneficial for overall jaw health.
Magnesium supplements can help with muscle relaxation and alleviate cramps, potentially providing relief for TMJ sufferers. However, the effectiveness of magnesium for TMJ treatment requires further research.
Dental splints, such as bite plates, bite guards, or stabilization splints, are designed to prevent contact between teeth and reduce jaw pressure, breaking the pain and inflammation cycle. Splint therapy can be an effective, painless, and easy-to-comply-with treatment when administered by a highly experienced TMJ specialist.
Mouthguards or nightguards can help address teeth grinding but may not be as effective for jaw clenching, which can cause extreme loading force on the TMJs. These devices may provide some relief for certain individuals but may not be a comprehensive solution for all TMJ sufferers.
A variety of treatment options are available for managing TMJ disorder, ranging from physical therapy to stress management techniques. The effectiveness of these treatments can vary depending on the individual and the severity of their TMJ symptoms. It is essential for patients to consult with healthcare professionals to determine the most appropriate treatment plan for their specific needs.
How to Cure TMJ Permanently with No Side Effects
Dealing with TMJ can be challenging as its root cause varies from person to person. But if there’s one common denominator, it’s stress and anxiety – the notorious duo that can cause tension to build up in our facial muscles and other joints, leading to TMJ and other conditions.
Luckily, you don’t have to suffer in silence. There’s a natural way to address the underlying causes of TMJ and alleviate its symptoms: nervous system regulation. This specialized technique can help reduce the physical pain associated with stress and improve your overall mental, emotional, and physical health.
Unlike traditional medical treatments that merely treat symptoms, nervous system regulation focuses on addressing the root cause of TMJ. This approach can be especially beneficial for those who haven’t found success with other treatments. Plus, it has no side effects.
How does it work? By knowing your sensitivity profile and understanding what has caused your nervous system to be dysregulated, we can teach you how to recognize the signs of your stress, notice when your nervous system is activated, and use specialized body-based practices to release tension from your body. This can help you find much-needed pain relief from your TMJ symptoms without invasive treatments or medication.
But the benefits of nervous system regulation don’t stop there. By regulating your nervous system, you can improve your overall health and even reverse chronic conditions you may have been dealing with for years or decades. Better sleep, less pain, reduced anxiety and stress levels, and increased energy and focus are just some of the positive effects you can expect to experience.
As we’ve discussed, TMJ is one of the most common jaw conditions and can range in severity. It is important to be aware of the symptoms so that you can identify if and when you may need medical attention.
While there are multiple treatments available, many come with side effects such as pain or reliance on medications. However, healing a dysregulated nervous system can help you to address the root cause of this condition and keep it from coming back for good.
If you’re tired of dealing with TMJ and want a natural, effective solution to relieve pain, nervous system regulation might be the answer you’re looking for. The Nervous System Solution, our world-class program to regulate and heal your nervous system and accompanying symptoms, will reopen doors soon. Make sure you don’t miss that window of opportunity by joining the waitlist here.
Frequently Asked Questions about TMJ
Can TMJ disorders cause permanent damage?
Left unaddressed, TMJ can cause irreversible damage to the jaw – including cartilage erosion and bone attrition. This leads to friction and pain in the joint, along with an increased risk of dislocation.
Can you live a normal life with a TMJ disorder?
TMJ might cause you pain and discomfort, but there are still many ways to lead a healthy and fulfilling life with this condition. With the right lifestyle changes and self-care practices, you can manage your TMJ pain and symptoms and keep living your best life.
Can TMJ disorders last a lifetime?
The duration of a TMJ disorder can range anywhere from a few days to a lifetime, depending on the severity and nature of your condition.
What happens if you don’t treat TMJ disorders?
If left untreated, TMJ disorder can lead to significant discomfort and tension, as well as chronic pain. Even worse, chronic pain can cause the development of illnesses like anxiety and depression – a serious reminder that it’s important to address it from the root.
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