Before coming to work as a chiropractor in Ottawa, I had the pleasure of working in several different clinical settings. One of those settings was in a family medicine practice where I worked closely with family doctors. This experience gave me the opportunity to see many conditions at a higher volume than in a conventional chiropractic clinic. One of the problems our team often encountered was jaw pain or TMJ. This condition can have a unique presentation and co-morbidity profile.
The jaw is a very high traffic joint. We use it to talk and eat. It is rare that we get to rest this joint. The temporomandibular (jaw) joint is located just anterior to the ear canal. The muscles that move the jaw span the entire side of the head and can reach behind the ear. The proximity of this joint and the reach of its muscles likely contribute to its varied clinical presentation.
The proximity of the jaw to the ear may cause it to present as ear pain. My colleagues in family medicine are used to seeing ear infections. Often when there was no evidence of infection, my colleagues would begin to suspect the jaw as a source of pain. A significant number of cases responded well, and with minimal treatment.
Another reason to treat the jaw is a relationship with headache symptoms. A potential link between jaw pain or dysfunction and head pain is the broad muscle known as the temporalis. This muscle assists the masseter and medial pterygoid in closing the jaw and masticating (chewing). The geography of this muscle, as the name suggests, goes to the region of the temple at the side of the head. I often find that someone complaining of pressure in the head will appreciate jaw treatment, as the pressure can often improve immediately after treatment.
Most of the patients were very surprised to experience relief of ear/face/head pain after one or two treatments. Because our jaw is a very busy joint, some follow up care may be required. And some mild symptoms may arise from time to time and a simple and quick treatment can often get them to calm within a very short period of time. If you are having ear pain, it is important to rule out the risk of infection. If your doctor has checked, and there is no evidence of infection, you may want to consider treatment with a chiropractor or physiotherapist.