YOUR JAW NEEDS movement, not just so you can talk, chew, and swallow, but to support cell repair in damaged tissues and to facilitate the flow of nutrients in and waste out required for the repair process.
A chiropractor can aid in restoring the jaw’s normal movement. They can manipulate your jaw back into its groove and improve its range of motion.
How Movement Aids in the Repair Process
Blood delivers nutrients to joints (like the jaw), but for the nutrients to seep into the joint fluid, the joint fluid has to stir. Joints don’t have little hearts to do this. Movement of the joint itself stirs the joint fluid and allows the blood in the capillary bed to deliver nutrients deeper inside the joint fluid. The cells inside the joints receive the nutrients they need for this rebuilding process. Thus, simply moving your joints helps them heal.
This is true for any joint, including the jaw. If you can’t move your jaw to its full potential, you starve your jaw. If the jaw does not have enough movement to stir the fluid that feeds the cells that repair it, it will degenerate over time.
Understanding What a Chiropractor Will Do
Chiropractors can manipulate the jaw in different ways. Some use a tool called the Activator or another type of mechanical adjusting tool
Figure 3 1: Using a chiropractic adjusting tool to treat the jaw.
Some may manipulate the jaw using their hands .
Figure 3‑2: Dr. Dallas manually manipulating my jaw.
Some may manipulate your jaw by putting on gloves and taking a hold of your mandible (jawbone) to adjust the temporomandibular joint.
Figure 3‑3: Another way to manipulate the jaw.
Make sure your practitioner also addresses any misalignments or tight muscles in your neck because this can also affect the healthy movement of the jaw. The muscles in the front of your neck affect the movement of the jaw. Tight or imbalanced muscles can negatively affect the health of the jaw and inhibit its healing.
Your chiropractor should also teach you how to address your TMD yourself. They should go over exercises and stretches for your specific condition to help facilitate your healing. Every time you talk, chew, swallow, or move your neck, you are at risk of undoing any treatment you receive.
Massaging the Jaw
Releasing muscle tension in the jaw can provide relief from TMD and help improve your jaw movement. A health professional like a physical therapist, chiropractor, or massage therapist can massage your jaw muscles (pterygoid, masseter, temporalis, and anterior neck muscles).
To massage the pterygoid muscles, the practitioner puts on gloves and inserts her fingers inside your mouth because the jawbone is in the way of massaging this muscle from the outside.
Having your masseter and pterygoid muscles massaged is often very painful. These muscles are some of the most sensitive to work on in the whole body because you use them thousands of times a day, every time you talk, chew, or swallow. You know how sore a muscle can be after you’ve used it all day. Plus, these muscles rarely if ever get touched, let alone massaged. Any area on your body that is rarely touched becomes hypersensitive to touch. So this is not a pleasant treatment, but it really does work.
When done well, you should notice some immediate relief; you should expect less pain and/or more movement of the jaw.