When you are involved in a car accident your body is put through incredible forces, even if the accident is a minor one. Although your vehicle is designed to take most of that force, and vehicle safety devices such as seatbelts and airbags are there to prevent you from suffering impact trauma, your body is still subjected to what is known as whiplash.
TMJ is short for temporomandibular joints. These joints are responsible of connecting your jawbone to your skull. When a car is struck from behind the person’s head is thrown backward and depending on the force of the collision it is possible for the muscles in their lower jaw to experience a large amount of pressure. Basically, the head and jaw are experiencing opposite forces causing a TMJ injury. While whiplash is a common cause of a TMJ injury it is also possible to suffer the injury because of your head or chin striking the steering wheel or other fixed object in the vehicle.
Accident victims may feel pain in their neck, head and/or back after whiplash occurs. For most people, the symptoms of a TMJ injury begin to show up much later and can intensify in severity over time. Signs of a TMJ injury are pain in the musculoskeletal structure of the jaw, tenderness and aching pain in your face, pain while chewing or talking, inability to open your mouth fully or a locking of your jaw, asymmetry when opening the mouth, changes in your bite, ringing in your ears or a feeling of stuffiness, earaches without an infection, sounds of clicking or popping when opening or closing your mouth, persistent headaches; pain in your neck, shoulders and back; dizziness, sensitive teeth, light sensitivity, and the development of vertigo.
If the problem is left untreated, TMJ issues can become permanent. This is why doctors now recommend anyone who has suffered whiplash be evaluated for a TMJ injury. If your doctor has not suggested testing for TMJ talk to them about the symptoms you have been experiencing and that you would like to be tested.
Common testing to determine if you have experienced a TMJ injury include a physical exam of the joint and muscles to test for tenderness. This exam may include sliding of your teeth from side to side. Your doctor may also watch, listen and feel as your jaw opens and closes. Your doctor may press on different areas of your head to test for sensitivity or pain. They may also order an x-ray or MRI of the jaw area to reveal any abnormalities in the jaw.
Once it has been determined that an accident victim has a TMJ injury a doctor may prescribe non-evasive therapy to relieve the symptoms. These therapies include but are not limited to massaging the jaw muscles, heat or ice applications to the area, stress management techniques, mouth splints, anti-inflammatory medication, soft diet and jaw exercises.
Surgery is usually a last resort for a TMJ injury and is used less and less in present day practices. Fortunately, there is a long list of helpful treatments that minimize symptoms long before surgery is a consideration.
If you have been in an auto accident and have been experiencing the symptoms listed above, you should seek treatment to relieve your symptoms. Since there is no certified specialty for TMJ disorders finding the right care can be difficult. Look for a health care provider who understands musculoskeletal disorders and who is trained in treating pain conditions. Lastly contact a personal injury attorney to discuss your rights and learn your options for paying for treatment of a TMJ injury.
Attorney Chelsie M. Lamie is a personal injury attorney located in Safety Harbor, Florida. If you or a loved one have been injured in a car accident or slip and fall accident, please call 727-501-3464 for a free consultation. You can also learn more about Attorney Lamie at www.chelsielamie.com.