There is a lot of mystery surrounding TMJ. When someone says "I have TMJ" what do they mean? Well, simply saying that you have TMJ doesn't mean anything, good or bad. TMJ stands for "temporal mandibular joint". Everyone has two of them. To say you have TMJ is like saying you have a knee. That does not indicate anything good or bad. What people typically mean when they say they have TMJ is that they have a TMJ disorder.
What is TMJ?
The TMJ is a joint just like any other joint in the body, with one critical exception. But let's talk about similarities first. There are two bones that meet each other. In between the bones, to prevent damage, there are tissues such as ligaments, desks, and fluids. As long as the two bones and the other soft tissues stay healthy, there should not be a problem. The one difference between TMJ and other joints is that you cannot operate only one TMJ at a time. You are required to operate both joints simultaneously. This is different than any other joint system in the body. Knees do not need to be bent at the exact same time. You can bend only one elbow at a time if you wish.
What Causes TMJ Disorder?
This need for complete symmetry is what causes some people to have TMJ disorders. Misaligned teeth, grinding teeth at night, and/or showing predominately on one side can all be causative factors in TMJ disorder's. If issues do arise with the joint such as clicking, popping, and/or pain then the TMJ should be treated just like any other joint. Rest, anti-inflammatories, massage, and alternating hot and cold therapies can help ease TMJ discomfort. If symptoms persist beyond these treatments then seeing an oral surgeon specialist may be needed. Physical therapy, steroid injections, and/or surgeries maybe necessary in severe cases.
As long as the two bones and the other soft tissues stay healthy there should not be a problem.