Back in Action offers special physical therapy care for people who are experiencing jaw problems, including pain, difficulty opening and closing, and/or chewing.

What is TMJ and TMD?

TMJ stands for temporomandibular joint. The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is a hinge joint that connects your jaw to your skull in front of your ear. The TMJ guides jaw movement and allows you to open and close your mouth. move it from side to side, and talk, yawn, or chew. Issues with this function are called temporomandibular joint disorder/dysfunction, or TMD.

Around 10 million people in the US experience TMD. Women are more commonly affected than men, and most affected are between 20 and 40 years old.

Symptoms of TMD

Symptoms of TMD can include:

  • Jaw pain with eating, talking or chewing
  • Clicking, popping, or locking in the jaw
  • Limited mouth opening or neck motion
  • Ear, tooth, facial, and/or neck pain
  • Headaches
  • Fullness or roaring in the ear

Please note that jaw pain can also be a symptom of a heart attack. Seek medical care immediately if jaw pain is accompanied by chest pain, shortness of breath, dizziness, pain or numbness in the left arm, or nausea. Jaw pain can also be related to sinus infections, ear infections, and tooth decay or abscesses.

What causes TMD?

  • Certain posture habits
  • Certain eating habits – prolonged consumption of hard food items
  • Chronic jaw clenching (bruxism)
  • Problems with teeth alignment (malocclusion)
  • Arthritis in the TMJ
  • Displacement of the disc or soft-tissue cushion in the TMJ, which causes popping, clicking, and pain

What can physical therapy do for TMD?

Patients often search for a provider that can care for their neck pain, headaches, facial pain, and other oral symptoms. Physical therapy is often an effective treatment option and generally patients are seen for 4-8 visits. In our clinic, we work to find the cause of the problem to help relieve symptoms and prevent them from recurring. We offer several treatments:

  • Posture training and education: Because posture can play a role in TMD symptoms, we will work with you on the posture of your jaw, head, neck, and shoulders to make sure the TMJ and the surrounding muscles are not being overworked or over-stretched. Modifying certain eating habits can help as well, such as limiting your jaw opening and hard foods like bagels.
  • Jaw Exercises: Believe it or not, you can train muscles in your jaw the same way you can train other muscles in your body. These exercise will focus on regaining motion is a safe and normal range of motion so there is not too much pressure on the jaw or strain on the muscles.
  • Manual Therapy: Chronic clenching, stress, and anxiety can lead to muscle tension and subsequently TMD symptoms. Manual therapy can be helpful, including massage and trigger point release. Specific jaw or neck stretches can also help if there are tight muscles or displacement of the TMJ disc.

In the event that your treatment is PT-resistant, we can refer you to a provider who also specializes in TMD, likely an ENT or dentist who we have worked with in the past.

Suffering from TMD?

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