Physical Therapy and TMJ Disorder
Temporomandibular joint dysfunction, or disorder, (TMD) limits the movement of your jaw or mouth, causing pain. It can make regular everyday tasks, like chewing or talking, frustrating and uncomfortable.
However, physical therapy can help manage and alleviate the pain and discomforts associated with this condition. So, let’s take a closer look. In this article, we’re going to cover the causes and symptoms of temporomandibular joint dysfunction and how physical therapy can help.
Understanding Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction
Research indicates that about 33% of the general population has experienced a symptom relating to TMD. Typically, this condition impacts individuals between 20 and 40 years old. It also tends to affect more women than men.
Generally, TMD is caused by:
- Poor posture, such as forward head posture.
- Jaw clenching (also known as bruxism).
- Teeth alignment issues (also known as malocclusion).
- Injury, such as a fracture.
- Jaw displacement
TMD symptoms may also come and go, be only temporary, or last for many years. It can even cause a locked jaw, creating further issues. Common symptoms of TMD include:
- Jaw pain.
- Trouble opening your mouth to talk or eat.
- Ringing in your ears
- Jaw fatigue.
- Popping or clicking sounds in the jaw.
- Neck pain.
- Limited mouth movement.
Luckily, physical therapy provides a solution to help combat your pain and symptoms and get you back to leading a relatively normal life.
How Can a Physical Therapist Help Alleviate TMJ Pain?
If not already diagnosed by a doctor or dentist, your physical therapist will first perform a thorough examination to diagnose your issue. This assessment will further help them determine how to properly treat your pain and associated symptoms. Through this evaluation, your physical therapist reviews your medical history, asks questions regarding your pain and symptoms, and completes a physical exam of your jaw and neck.
In some cases, dentistry is necessary for the correction of teeth alignment issues that are contributing to the problem. However, if this isn’t a concern for you, your physical therapist, such as Dr. Evelyn Mora at Healers of Motion, will create an appropriate treatment and exercise program for you.
Research has also indicated the benefits of physical therapy in improving TMD pain and social function. Generally, the goal of physical therapy for TMD is to help improve function, relax tight muscles, and release scar tissue or adhesions.
Typically, your treatment may include:
- Jaw strengthening exercises.
- Heat therapy.
- Cold therapy.
- Massage techniques.
- Posture and jaw alignment training.
- Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENs) for pain.
- Other modalities, such as ultrasound.
Your physical therapist may also offer tips and educational advice, such as:
- Avoid repetitive chewing.
- Avoid eating hard and chewy foods.
- Avoid sleeping on your stomach to avoid neck strain, which can contribute to TMD.
- Don’t hold your phone between your head and shoulder. Instead, use a headset.
- Ensure your computer screen is at eye level to prevent neck strain.
However, specific education and advice may depend on you and your situation.
At Healers of Motion Physical Therapy, Dr Evelyn Mora is dedicated to helping others overcome pain and return to their regular activities. She is unique in that she has gone through extensive training specifically for TMD therapy. Our compassionate and caring team understands the frustration associated with painful conditions, such as TMD. However, we are confident that we have the expertise and tools to help you make a full recovery. Contact us at 954-861-0252 to book your appointment and start feeling better today!