The most common complaints from patients who have been in car accidents are neck and back pain, headaches, and stiffness in their muscles. What is often overlooked as a result of whiplash are injuries to the TMJ, or temporomandibular joints.
The joints in the jaw, or TMJ, connects your jaw to your head. It is a hinge joint that allows you to chew and speak. Most people do not realize how often they move their jaw until it becomes injured. An injured TMJ can cause headaches, pain with chewing, clicking, and inability to open the mouth fully.
These symptoms of dysfunction in the TMJ can be the result of a whiplash injury which is commonly experienced in car accidents. Rear end collisions or being “T-boned” can cause the head to be jarred forward and backward quickly. This jarring motion can create tension on the sides of the head where the jaw muscles attach, especially if the jaw is open at the time of impact. Recent research has shown that patients who suffered whiplash in car accidents were 5x more likely to develop TMJ pain than those who did not suffer whiplash injuries.
Often patients do not connect their jaw pain with the accident and do not mention it to their doctors. They may even think that there are not any conservative treatment options. However, there are a number of non-invasive therapies including:
- Massage to the jaw muscles
- Chiropractic adjustments to the jaw and cervical spine
- Mouth guards
- Anti-inflammatory supplements
- Heat or ice
Physical examination can help to determine if the jaw is aligned properly, if range of motion is decreased, and muscles are tight or tender. Using the above treatments can drastically reduce the pain and discomfort in the jaw from a whiplash injury.
Functional Health Unlimited is extremely knowledgeable at assessing and treating soft tissue injuries, especially those from auto accidents. Contact us today to find out how we can help.
Dr. Lori Jokinen, DC CACCP CFMP BA