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It's More Than Just a Pain in the Jaw!
By Dr. Donald Liebell
TMJ in itself is not a condition. It’s the name of a joint—the Temporo-Mandibular-Joint. Temporo refers to the temporal bone of the skull. Mandibular refers to the jaw bone - the mandible. TMJ dysfunction simply means one or both of your TM joints are not functioning properly.
The TMJ is a ball and socket joint. It also has a cushioning disc called a meniscus.
The meniscus of the TMJ can be victimized by uneven wear and tear just like any joint
of the body. This may result in deterioration of the ball and socket joint. If this
meniscus disc wears down, it doesn’t provide its cushioning effect as well. Grinding
sounds known as crepitus can be the result.
The TMJ is one of the simplest joints in the human body. It is however, subjected to
the very complex muscular forces of chewing. TMJ dysfunction can result in jaw and face
pain, headaches and neck pain, as well as difficulty opening and closing one’s mouth.
The Missing Link in the Diagnosis and Treatment
of TMJ Dysfunction: The Upper Neck
Keep in mind that the TMJ is NOT a dental structure. It is not a tooth; it is a joint. While specialized dentists have much expertise in the subject of TMJ diagnosis and treatment; there is much more to the story. I will enlighten you to such in this article.
Anatomically, the TMJ is intimately related to the neck. The Atlas Vertebra (first bone of the neck, located at the base of the skull) is the jaw joint’s close neighbor. This means that problems with the Atlas can affect the TMJ, and vice versa.
When there is mechanical malfunction and structural imbalance of the TMJ, our brain tries to compensate for the problem. Muscles of the neck, face and jaw will contract in an attempt to re-align the TMJ. Muscle contraction requires ENERGY. That’s why a TMJ condition can result in muscle fatigue in the neck, shoulders and back.
Yes… a TMJ problem can cause pain and fatigue throughout the body, as can a problem with its “good neighbor” the Atlas Vertebra (upper cervical spine). TMJ dysfunction, with accompanying joint misalignment can affect the ears too. It can create pressure on the tympanic bone, which separates the ear canal from the TMJ.
There are also ligaments, nerves and arteries involved. Irritation or interference to these and other local structures can give rise to ringing in the ears (tinnitus), dizziness or vertigo, increased or decreased sensitivity to sound, pain in the tongue and other symptoms.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Evaluation of TMJ can indeed require various medical disciplines. Medical and dental history and examination is appropriate. This can include ear, nose and throat specialists, orthodontists, chiropractors and neurologists as well. X-ray and MRI are frequently utilized to determine structural problems and to rule out pathology (tumors, growths, etc.)
Jaw “tracking” or range of motion examination is essential. Postural examination is a must, and in my opinion, one of the most important and overlooked evaluations is the: Upper Cervical Chiropractic Neck Evaluation
To explain this all-important aspect of TMJ evaluation and treatment, I’ve got a story for you:
It all started oddly, with a case of lower back pain! What does back pain have to do with TMJ? Stick with me and I’ll explain. Let me tell you the story of a young lady named Lindsay. Her story begins four years ago when she first began experiencing the symptoms of this horrible condition—TMJ dysfunction. At age 14, she was in terrible pain all the time and her jaw made the most hideous cracking sounds. She told me, even worse than her pain was the embarrassment—the awful noises her mouth made every time she opened it.
Lindsay couldn't eat normal food. Chewing anything of crunchy consistency was near impossible, so she was limited to soft foods only. She got funny looks when her clunking and cracking jaw could quite literally be heard from across the room.
The Only Thing Her Doctors Had to Offer Was Literally Jaw-Breaking Surgery!
Lindsay was at first told, “nothing could be done.” She was given painkillers, which her parents thought was a ridiculous option. After all, how could that be good for something that was clearly a mechanical problem? Wasn’t the doctor concerned about side effects? She went to an orthodontist and was fitted with braces for her teeth.
Cosmetically it was great, since her teeth looked nice and straight. This did not change her jaw problem at all. Then she went to a dentist who claimed to specialize in TMJ. He wanted to do an operation immediately. Lindsay’s parents were told that her jaw had to be broken and re-set in better position.
Desperate for help, Lindsay was scheduled for surgery. With no insurance to cover what was classified as a “cosmetic” procedure, this was going to cost her parents $15,000. After a lot of pressuring by her parents, the surgeon sheepishly admitted that there was no real way to tell if the operation could help her problem at all. But what else could they do?
That Was When They Came To Me!
I'm known for treating chronic pain conditions related to the neck and back such as Fibromyalgia, headaches, whiplash injuries and neck pain. Lindsay’s mother was coming to me about 15 years ago for treatment for back pain and was doing great. That’s when she approached me about the TMJ. She was aware that I knew a lot about natural and non-surgical health care, and was able to rid her of lower back pain after many other doctors had failed.
So she thought, what the heck…maybe I knew something about the TMJ.
Ask and You Shall Receive!
Well it turns out that she was right. The thing was though, that I had a lot to learn…at least at first. Here’s what happened: Lindsay’s mom told me about her daughter during one of her visits for her back. She told me about the $15,000 operation and asked if there was anything I could possibly do. So I told her to bring Lindsay in on her next visit and I’d take a look.
She certainly didn’t exaggerate. When Lindsay opened her mouth it sounded like a ratchet. I’d never heard such a sound before. And when I examined the movement of her jaw joints, I could feel how bad it was. Her left and right jaw joints didn’t work as a team. They each had a “mind of their own.”
Definitely not normal.
“Wow” was all I could say at first. But Lindsay’s mom, I humbly say, was very confident in me and didn’t hesitate to say, “Do you think you can help her…I’m sure you can think of something?”
My answer was, “maybe…but I need a couple of days to think about it.” This was definitely cool with Lindsay and her mom…despite the fact that the surgery was scheduled for two weeks from then. Anyway, I had an idea—one of those “light bulb” over the head situations. But I still needed to review some anatomy and physiology first, and make a plan.
Two days later, Lindsay and her mother returned for my “verdict.” I told them, “okay, I actually think I can try something…it could very likely NOT work…but…there will be no harm in trying. I also told them that I’d be willing to try this treatment, but only for a very short time. It must start to work quickly or else I wouldn’t continue. Lindsay’s mother said, “Please try it right away!” And so I did.
Simply Put…It Worked!
Lindsay could open and close her mouth better. Her jaw could move better, with less pain and noise right away. It was hardly perfect, but there was a glimmer of hope. I knew I was on to something. Her mother and I decided we would continue with more of the same treatment for two weeks and see what would happen.
That was back in 2002.
Years later, Lindsay’s jaw was still working well…no $15.000 surgery. Lindsay got better and better with continued treatment sessions, and in no time she didn’t even need any treatment at all.
Awesome! A New Approach to TMJ Developed
To tell you the truth, I never expected any of this because it wasn’t the focus of my practice. I had no idea that some of the knowledge, skill and technology I already possessed could be used to help TMJ sufferers. By furthering my education about TMJ, I came to understand how brutally painful TMJ dysfunction really is. I knew I couldn't let this thing go. So I started seeking people suffering from TMJ and offered them my treatment to try out. Plus, I added other components to the treatment plan, which made it work even better.
Patient after patient reported fast and complete relief from their pain! So that's how I developed my non-surgical TMJ treatment program. Lindsay’s case was my first. After discovering what good I could do, I decided to really develop my TMJ treatment protocol. My TMJ treatment was receiving a lot of word-of-mouth attention.
Several patients and colleagues suggested that I get a United States patent. But I explained to them that I didn’t actually invent anything new at all. I simply took several existing technologies and methods and utilized them for a specific purpose. The same people kept badgering me about why the news media hadn’t picked up on this story. They wondered why, since someone had come up with a safe, natural, and effective way to treat TMJ…the world was NOT knocking on the door?
“How come everybody doesn’t know about this? Especially considering how so many TMJ sufferers go from doctor to doctor seeking an answer. There are tons of websites about TMJ. You can spend hours reading through them.
Perhaps you have already.
Most of them are dentists. No disrespect to that fine profession, but the teeth are not always the cause. In fact, it’s important to remind you again that…
The TMJ is a JOINT.
It’s not a tooth! It even has a disc (just like in the spine). My experience has gotten me quite certain that the teeth are NOT the primary cause of most TMJ. I think the dysfunction in upper neck and the Temporomandibular joint together are the cause in a great many cases of jaw and face pain, headaches, popping noises and other related symptoms.
Liebell Tri-Tech TMJ Treatment
I call my protocol the Tri-Tech TMJ treatment because I use three different technologies to get optimum results. Here are the 3 technologies:
Atlas Orthogonal (AO). AO has been the foundation of my treatment throughout my career. AO is a procedure, which focuses on alignment and proper mechanics of the bones of the upper neck. It is one of my procedures of choice for people with TMJ trouble—particularly those who also suffer headaches. It is one of my “secrets” since few doctors ever consider looking at the neck in a case of TMJ trouble.
Cold Laser Therapy is an amazing treatment, which assists me in the treatment of a wide variety of ailments such as headaches, shoulder, wrist and knee problems, etc. When Albert Einstein suggested its concept way back in 1917, “they” thought he was “nuts.” You’ll soon discover that “they” were nuts for not paying attention to him! Skillfully applied to both the TMJ area and the neck, relief can be incredible.
TMJ Mechanical Mobilization & Alignment. I use a specially designed, hand-held, mechanical instrument used for chiropractic protocols, which I use to stimulate normal movement and lubrication in joints. It was in the case of Lindsay that I developed my special “4-point” system of TMJ correction using this device. My research on the subject of TMJ has drawn me the conclusion that most doctors simply do not consider all of its possible causes. It seems that the majority of cases are classified as dental cases. And of course, many of them are. But I suspect that since you’re reading this report, you’ve probably gone the dental route already…and it wasn’t the treatment for you. You’ve also learned that I’m not a dentist (I do refer people for dental evaluation if they have not already had it). My approach has to do with two primary areas of the body: the neck and the synchronization of movement in both jaw joints.
The Reason WHY My Tri-Tech TMJ Treatment Works…
It works because it’s not only focused on the teeth (I refer to a local dentist with TMJ expertise when that is the case). It works because it’s not only focused on correcting the mechanical problems of the TMJ itself…but also its neighboring structures.
Your neck is intimately related to the Temporomandibular joint (TMJ). And it turns out that many TMJ patients have an underlying neck problem too.
Perhaps YOU can be another one of the fortunate people who…
Wouldn't it be awesome to get rid of your TMJ problems...and to be able to live a healthy, energetic, normal, happy life again, without having your jaw pain, headaches etc., holding you back and annoying you all the time?
I’m sure you’ll agree that TMJ dysfunction Is a problem definitely worth ending.
-Dr. Donald Liebell
Donald K. Liebell, DC, BCAO
477 Viking Drive Suite 170
Virginia Beach VA 23452
8:30AM - 6:30PM M,W,F
(By Appointment Tu, Sat)
The Liebell Clinic: Chronic Pain & Wellness Solutions
Natural & holistic, whole-person, wellness-based Healthcare - Drug-Free & Non-Surgical Pain Relief
The Liebell Clinic: 477 Viking Drive Virginia Beach, VA 23452 (757) 631-9799 www.LiebellClinic.com