What You Should Know About TMJ Disorders

What You Should Know About TMJ Disorders

Do you often feel a dull, aching pain in your jaw? Do you hear it click or pop whenever you yawn or even talk? If you answered yes to either of those questions, there’s a chance you’re suffering from a temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ disorder). In this article, we’ll look at the jaw-dropping facts (we’re sorry, we had to) about this all too common ailment. One of the biggest problems with TMJ disorder is how often it goes undiagnosed or, even worse, misdiagnosed. As with almost anything else in life, the earlier you know, the easier it is to do something about it.

What’s a Temporomandibular Joint?

Your TMJ or Temporomandibular Joints are the joint and jaw muscles that connect your jawbone to the skull, and are the most used joint in your body. The skull and the jawbone are separated by a cartilage disk that serves as a shock absorber and joint lubricant. You use it when you eat, talk, breathe, drink, yawn, and express your feelings and emotions. Essentially, if you’re doing anything that helps to keep you alive, you’re using it. Because they get through so much daily work, many people will suffer some sort of TMJ pain in the course of their lifetime.

What causes a TMJ disorder?

Primarily, TMJ disorders occur when something adversely affects your jaw joints or jaw muscles. There’s a variety of causes ranging from injury to arthritis. In many cases they result from an injury that moves the TMJ out of its proper alignment, or an inflammation such as arthritis. However, there are instances when TMJ disorders are caused by seemingly innocuous routines such as teeth grinding or jaw clenching. It sounds unbelievable, but even poor posture can contribute to strains in your jaw, neck, and facial muscles.

What are the symptoms of a TMJ disorder?

While pain or tenderness is not always present, when you have a TMJ disorder you may experience mild to debilitating symptoms such as:

  • Clicking, popping or grating sounds when you move your jaw
  • Pressure behind your eyes or inside the ears
  • Ringing in the ears and dizziness
  • Locking of the jaw joint, making it difficult to open and close your mouth
  • Sensitive or sore teeth
  • Chronic headaches and migraines
  • Back, neck and shoulder pain

What exercises can you do to relieve the pain?

If you have one or more of the symptoms listed, you should try a few exercises to see if they offer any pain relief.

The simplest thing you can do to relax your jaw is a simple breathing exercise. Inhale for 5-10 seconds, then slowly exhale for another 5-10 seconds. Repeat this 5-10 times. Although it’s obviously the simplest thing you can try, focusing on your breathing can help to relax and relieve tension.

Alternatively, you can try strengthening and stretching your jaw. Put your thumb under your chin and gently push downward against it using your jaw muscles. Keep on opening your mouth against moderate force and hold it for 5-10 seconds. Another thing you can do is to open your mouth as widely as possible and then place your index finger between your chin and lower lip (maybe it’s best to try this one in the privacy of your own home). Push inward against the resistance.

One final stretch utilizes your tongue, rather than your hands. Place your tongue on the roof of your mouth and glide your lower jaw out as far it will go, then return it its natural position, allowing for 5 seconds in each position. This can also be done with a closed mouth.

If all else fails, see an expert

If you’ve tried these simple relief exercises aren’t having any luck, get on the phone and book an appointment to come see us here at Northern Myotherapy. We’re specialists in treating muscle and joint strains, and are dedicated to helping you live a full, pain-free life.

If the problem persists we’ll be able to refer you to a specialist doctor – Associate Professor Michael Stubbs – who will be able to look into alternative avenues of treatment.

Whatever you do, don’t panic. Bear in mind that jaw pain and chronic headaches do not always mean that a TMJ disorder has reared its irritating head. But, if you regularly experience any of the symptoms listed above, don’t leave it too late before getting in touch. Give us a call and let’s get you back on the road to wellness.

How to get the sleep You Crave

How to get the sleep You Crave

Feeling groggy and foggy in the mornings? You’re not alone. Reports show that around 40% of Australians are not getting enough shut-eye, and it’s got the potential to seriously affect the way we live our lives. The Sleep Health Foundation has highlighted potential consequences such as an increased risk of stroke, memory loss, and social withdrawal. Oh, and it’s also estimated to cost the economy $66 billion every year when health bills, lost productivity, and wellbeing are all factored in!

Sit back and relax; the perfect night’s sleep is not out of reach. Below we discuss four ways to give yourself the best chance of getting that great sleep you’ve been craving.

  1. Clear your head before hitting the sack

    If you consistently find yourself unable to sleep until the early hours of the morning roll around, the chances are you’re overwhelmed with residual stress, worry, or even anger. What you need is a way to let go of the day’s emotions before climbing into bed.One option is to embrace the soothing qualities of meditation. There are tons of books, mobile apps, or even beginner’s courses that will be able to help you decouple from the day’s worries. If meditation is a bit out there for you, go for something a little simpler like soothing music to divert your thinking from all those nagging thoughts that keep you from nodding off. You’ll be surprised at how effective replacing your concerns with a spot of music can be.

    You can also use your powerful sense of smell to influence the way you feel. Think about how certain smells recall a favourite memory and instantly improve your mood. If you’re having issues getting in the right frame of mind for sleep then essential oils have the potential to reduce anxiety and bring on a feeling of positive relaxation. Most importantly, they’re a natural alternative to those tablets the pharmacist has suggested.

  2. Create a bedtime schedule and stick to it

    Keeping a regular sleep-wake cycle is one of the most practical strategies you can implement to reduce the stress of bedtime and start your journey towards better sleep. Your body likes routine and is unlikely to respond well if it’s got no way of knowing when your next sleep will be. You can’t be a morning lark one day and a night owl the next.Try to choose a bedtime that suits your lifestyle and your body, and work hard to stick at it. Once you’ve developed a schedule that works for you, try to adhere to it every night of the week to optimise the ease and quality of your sleep. Occasional later nights during weekends are okay if you’re able to slot back into your normal time the following night.

    While everybody loves a nap and you may need one from time to time, be smart about when and how you do it. Try to limit yourself to 15-20 minute bursts so you don’t oversleep and feel ready for a triathlon when your time for a real sleep rolls around.

  3. Stay away from your gadgets before getting some Zzz

    Don’t let any of your devices stop you from living a happy and healthier life! Your world will not stop spinning if you give yourself a bit of space from your electronic buddies as you begin to get ready for bed.Studies show that focusing on screens before bed negatively impacts the quality and length of your sleep. The blue light that our electronic devices emit disrupts your body’s internal clock and suppresses the release of melatonin, which is the body’s sleep-inducing hormone. It’s simple, the more time you spend on devices at night, the harder it’s going to be for you to fall asleep.

    If you’re the kind of person who can’t help themselves reaching for something as bedtime looms, reading an old-fashioned book under a lamp is your best plan of action. If you’re really struggling, keep your electronics in another room and use a simple alarm clock (instead of your phone) to prevent you from staring at your screen like a zombie.

  4. Sleep in a comfortable environment

    How many of us actually consider our sleeping environment when questioning why we aren’t getting enough sleep? Try to keep your room clean and cool, and avoid using it for work-related or stressful activities. Additionally, never underestimate the importance of your mattress.We know they can be a little costly, but too many people make the mistake ofpresuming their mattress will last them a lifetime. Just like your body, your mattress will change and age over time.

    In order to help you get the mattress you need, we’ve spoken to the lovely people at Beds for Backs and arranged for ALL Northern Myotherapy clients to receive a storewide 20% discount. If it is your mattress that’s stopping you from getting the sleep, there’s now no excuse not to fix it.

Tennis Elbow Injury

Tennis elbow (also known as lateral epicondylitis)

It is a common misconception that you must be a tennis player to suffer from tennis elbow (also known as lateral epicondylitis). Though it is present in 40% of all tennis players (hence it's name) 15% of office workers or people working in repetitive trades suffer from tennis elbow. It can occur at any age, however, sufferers are generally between the ages of 35 and 50. 

Generally people experience pain at or just below the lateral epicondyle (the pointy part on the outside of your elbow) during gripping, lifting or wringing activities. The pain is caused by damage to the tendon that connects the muscles of your forearm to the bone in your upper arm. This is more often than not due to excessive gripping or wringing activities, poor muscle strength/tight muscles in the forearm or poor technique of the repeated task. Most elbow movements will be pain-free, despite that being the area of pain. 

Some sufferers will also have neck stiffness and tenderness or signs of nerve irritation. However there is a high incidence of lateral (outside) elbow pain that is referred to your elbow from a cervical spine (neck) injury. Often pain signals are transmitted along the radial nerve which may also cause reduced neural mobility, which can cause symptoms similar to tennis elbow. 

Surgery is rarely needed, but might be used if your doctor deems in absolutely necessary. Sometimes patients are told to consider a cortisone injection into the elbow. The most recent research regarding this shows though cortisone assists in settling inflammation, which may help in the short term, generally this condition is not an inflammatory condition so in the long term the injections are not helpful. A tennis elbow brace may also be suggested to offer support to the joint and ease pain, in some instances, though it does not work in 100% of cases. 

As diagnose can be confusing and there are multiple options for treatment it is extremely important to have the issue assessed by an experienced doctor or myotherapist to confirm or exclude any neck dysfunction or neural tension. Otherwise little no improvement will be made and the development of chronic tennis elbow syndrome is high. 

Myotherapy has proven to be effective in the short and long-term management of tennis elbow through reduction of elbow pain, facilitation of tissue repair, restoration of the normal joint range of motion and function, restoration of normal muscle length, strength and movement patterns, normalisation of your upper limb neurodynamics and cervical joint function. Your myotherapist will discuss the best strategy for treatment and recovery based on your symptoms and lifestyle. Including  look at contributing factors such as workstation setup and your posture to ensure that your pain stays away. 

The most important thing in managing this condition is a progressive strengthening program. Typically, tendon overload injuries such as this can take anywhere between 2 and 24 months to be back to normal and tendons require gradual load in order to heal correctly, so it is very important to continue to strengthen your muscles even if your pain is gone. 

Remember if you are experiencing elbow pain of any kind it’s important to seek treatment as soon as possible to reduce your recovery time.