If you have ever experienced jaw pain, you know this feat is difficult to impossible! Jaw pain is frustrating to say the least. Popping pain pills seems to bring the only relief….But what if you could fix the pain by addressing the underlying problem?


The TMJ gets its name from the two bones that make it up, the temporal and mandibular bones that come together to form two hinge-like joints on both sides of the head. It is controlled by the masseter, internal pterygoid, external pterygoid, and temporalis muscles.

This is one of the more complex joints in the body so when the jaw muscles are out of balance, like a tire out of alignment, wear and tear happens and can lead to a variety of problems. The most obvious problem is pain and difficulty chewing or talking.


  • Pain in the jaw, especially at the area of the joint
  • Pain or tenderness in the face, neck and shoulders, and in or around the ear when you speak, chew, or open your mouth wide
  • Limited ability to open the mouth very wide
  •  Popping, clicking, or grating sounds in the jaw joint when chewing or opening or closing the mouth
  • Jaw gets “locked” or “stuck” in the open or closed-mouth position

Other common symptoms of TMJ dysfunction can include toothaches, neck aches, headaches, dizziness, hearing problems, earaches, ringing in the ears, and upper shoulder pain.

*Quick check: You should be able to get 3 middle knuckles of your fingers between your upper and lower central teeth. If you can’t, your jaw doesn’t open far enough indicating your jaw-closing muscles are too tight.


TMJ dysfunction can be caused by or develop from muscular imbalances in the head and neck, grinding or clenching of the teeth, only chewing on one side, a misaligned bite, incorrect posture, pelvic imbalances, and even over-pronation in the feet.

  • Clenching or grinding the teeth, which puts a lot of pressure on the TMJ
  • Receiving a whiplash or a heavy blow to the jaw
  • Dislocation of the disc or soft cushion between the ball and socket joint
  • Stress, which can cause a person to clench or tighten the muscles of the face and jaw
  • Biting down on a thick or hard piece of food

*When was your last dental appointment? One of the main causes could be your bite is off due to a loose crown or poor tooth alignment. When this happens, the jaw-closing muscles may not be properly turned off through the deformation of the periodontal ligament, thus leading to cracking or premature wearing of the teeth. If you need an excellent dentist who can fix this, I refer all my patients to Dr. Richard Moller DDS at New Image Dentistry.

How to fix TMJ dysfunction? An Applied Kinesiology approach:

When evaluating the jaw, as a Doctor of Chiropractic and an Applied Kinesiologist, I look at the articulation of the joint itself, examining how it moves and how the muscles that control the jaw are functioning (Masseter, Temporalis, External and Internal Pterygoid muscles). Are they weak or in spasm? If so, golgi tendon or muscle spindle work may be indicated to balance the  muscles of the neck and jaw.

TMJ issues are usually the last wind up of a bigger problem that has been going on for a while, so unless there has been direct trauma to the jaw, I rarely go straight to the jaw to fix the problem. Usually when the TMJ starts hurting, there is a deeper underlying cause in the spine that hasn’t been fixed yet. Finding and adjusting spinal subluxations found in the neck and back alone fix the jaw problem half the time.  As mentioned earlier, the feet and pelvis can play a roll in TMJ function as well.

After all the above have been checked, a gentle adjustment to the jaw joint can be done to help remove the subluxated pattern, allowing the jaw joint to move pain free.

If you are currently attempting to eat but can’t move your jaw due to pain or believe you have TMJ, call our office at Living Well Family Chiropractic to schedule a consultation 360.787.6381

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