I've talked several times in this blog about TMJ (temporomandibular joint) disorder. Today, thanks to a patient or two over the last few months, I want to talk about TMJ disorder and chiropractors.
A few months ago, a patient mentioned to me that he was going to a chiropractor for his TMJ disorder. I found that a little odd, but hey, I'm always open to new ideas and such, so I asked about it some more. Turns out, my patient went three or four times and wasn't totally sure if the chiropractic treatment was working or not.
A month or two goes by and another patient tells me she went to a chiropractor for her TMJ disorder. She was on the "everyday" plan for two weeks, and again, the results were somewhat unclear; pretty much along the lines of "I think I might be feeling better" -- which is not definitive. So I decided to do a little research and blog about it.
Let's start by briefly going over what TMJ disorder is: TMJ disorder (TMJ Syndrome) is a blanket term for acute or chronic inflammation of the temporomandibular joint (which is what connects your mandible to your skull). The most common causes range from bruxism (teeth grinding), trauma, excessive nail biting, degenerative joint diseases and many more. Essentially, TMJ disorder is quite common.
The biggest symptoms are discomfort and pain in your jaw, difficulty in chewing, earache, headache (including migraines), dizziness, neck and shoulder pain and a host of others. (If you are interested in more causes and symptoms, some good information on TMJ Disorder can be found at tmj.org) (1).
Many times, TMJ Disorder symptoms can be treated with home remedies and lifestyle changes -- sometimes on your own, and sometimes with some help from your doctor or dentist. For example, if the cause of your TMJ disorder is bruxism, I, as an NYC Cosmetic Dentist can help you there (not that you need to see me -- any dentist can likely help you). Sometimes, treatment can go a surgical route as well. But I had never heard of chiropractic treatment for TMJ until my two patients mentioned it. I was a little skeptical at first, and after doing some research, I am even more skeptical.
Let me start by saying that I have been a fan of chiropractic treatment for one's back and the like. But I was less sure about TMJ.
I looked long and hard online for any credible information regarding chiropractic as a treatment option for TMJ Disorder. The only positive information I found was from chiropractors and chiropractic organizations themselves (2). To me, that's a little bit telling. The website "chirobase," which is a somewhat "chiropractor-skeptical" website run by a doctor and contributing chiropractors who want honest information on the subject "out there" has this very question answered (in the negative) by a chiropractor (3).
A little more telling is that Mayo clinic does not mention Chiropractic as a treatment option at all (4). And finally, we have this tidbit from TMJ.org that directly addresses the question:
There is insufficient scientific evidence of safety and/or efficacy of the various chiropractic treatment methods recommended for treating TMJ problems. However, we are aware of some cases in which the patient's condition was improved. On the other hand, we also heard from patients for whom such treatment did not provide relief, patients whose TMJ problem was actually caused or worsened by chiropractic treatment or physical manipulation of the jaw.(5)
The leading website and information source for TMJ Disorder basically says there is little more than anecdotal proof. This sounds somewhat like what my own patients reported.
One more time, I want to state that I am not against chiropractic treatment for the "classic" problems, pain and symptoms that it seems to effectively address. But just because a chiropractor might help neck and shoulder pain (and hey, neck and shoulder pain can be a symptom of TMJ disorder) does not mean a chiropractor can treat TMJ.
Ok, how do you feel about this? Is there anyone out there who has had a chiropractor successfully treat your TMJ Disorder? Or not? Either way, I'd really like to hear from you. Because again, all I could really find on the positive side is information and articles written by chiropractors themselves. Both of my patients had "unclear" results. I should ask them again when they come back to get the rest of the story.
Until next time, keep smiling!
1 - www.tmj.org