Why Your TMJ Could Use Some TLC

TMJ pain can be pretty confusing. When you have pain anywhere in your body, you go to the doctor. If your mouth hurts, you schedule a dentist appointment. But what most people don’t realize is that you can go to physical therapy for both mouth pain and body pain. TMJ (temporomandibular joint disease) is a disorder that affects the connective joint at the jawline. TMJ can cause severe pain and stiffness in the jaw. There is a solution that can help reduce the symptoms of TMJ.

TMJ Symptoms Can Be Decreased with Physical Therapy

If TMJ is left untreated, pain can increase, and the jaw can lock, making it difficult to open and close the mouth. Also, it can affect the alignment of your jaw which could cause an uneven bite. The good news is that TMJ can be successfully treated with physical therapy.

First, it’s important to properly identify if your symptoms are in fact due to TMJ. You will need to visit your doctor to be sure, but here are some signs to look for.

TMJ Symptoms

  • Pain with talking and/or eating
  • Headaches
  • Earaches
  • Pain and/or feeling of pressure behind the eyes
  • A popping noise when opening or closing the mouth
  • Pain when yawning or opening the mouth widely
  • Sore jaw muscles
  • Occasional or frequent locking of the jaw
  • Dizziness
  • Sudden misalignment of the teeth

TMJ Causes

TMJ can be caused by:

  • Chronic jaw clenching
  • Bad posture habits
  • Problems with teeth alignment
  • Surgery to the face and jaw
  • A fracture to the lower jaw
  • Trismus (“lockjaw”)

Working alongside a physical therapist can help your TMJ. Your physical therapist can develop a program for you that includes learning and practicing various techniques for regaining normal, pain-free jaw movement. The focus of physical therapy for TMJ is to stretch, relax and release any tight muscles or scar tissue. Some common physical therapy techniques may include:

  • Joint mobilization/manipulation
  • Myofascial techniques
  • Dry needling
  • Therapeutic exercise programs (targeted to the neck, shoulders and jaw)
  • Heat therapy to improve blood circulation in the jaw
  • Ice therapy to reduce swelling and relieve pain
  • Training to improve posture and correct jaw alignment
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