Background on the TMJ
The temporomandibular joint (TMJ), albeit small, is one of the most complex and fascinating joints in the human body. We have two TMJ’s, one on each side of the jaw, and within each side there are multiple “joints”. The complexity of the TMJ allows for a wide variety of jaw movement for eating, talking, laughing and yawning, etc. The complexity of the TMJ also opens doors to multiple causes of pain or temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJD). However, with a skilled physical therapist you can achieve TMJ relief and get your life back.
Anatomy of the TMJ
You may want a quick intro to TMJ anatomy as it relates to finding TMJ relief. The bony attachments of the TMJ include the mandibular fossa of the temporal bone (side of the head), and the mandibular condyle of the mandible (jaw). Between these bony surfaces lies an articular cartilage disc. This disc moves in concert with the jaw to allow for smooth opening and closing of the mouth. The primary muscles of the TMJ include the temporalis, masseter, medial pterygoid, lateral pterygoid and hyoid muscles.
Common causes of TMJ pain
There are many possible factors that may lead to TMJ pain. Common contributing factors include neck pain and dysfunction, poor posture, a blow to the jaw, teeth clenching, grinding your teeth at night, nail biting, gum chewing or simply from stress. Having dental work done or being intubated in surgery may also exacerbate TMJ pain due to the prolonged time spent with your mouth open.
Common complaints associated with TMJ disorder
The most common complaints with TMJD include clicking, locking, catching and popping in the jaw. Other common complaints include facial pain, ear ache, head ache and neck pain. Some may also experience dizziness which could be related to a neck disorder linked to TMJ pain.
Questions to ask yourself
Do you have pain with chewing, yawning, laughing or simply speaking? Has your jaw ever locked? Do you feel like your bite is normal and that your jaw is aligned? Has your dentist ever told you that you grind your teeth at night? If your answer is “yes” to any of these questions, you may want to schedule an examination with your physical therapist to diagnose and treat your problem.
Physical Therapy treatment for TMJ relief
After a thorough examination and specific diagnosis with your PT, an individualized treatment plan will be created with you. These PT treatments may include TMJ joint mobilization and distraction, soft tissue massage both inside the mouth and around the head, face and neck, spinal or neck manipulation/adjustment, specific jaw and postural exercises and patient education on self-care strategies to promote independence and long-lasting TMJ relief.
If you have TMJ pain, call SportsCare Physical Therapy today to set up an examination with one of our highly skilled physical therapists who will be more than happy to partner with you and help you find TMJ relief.