Temporomandibular Joint Disorder, also known as TMJ, is a condition impacting the jaw joints and muscles. Causes of this disorder typically include jaw injury, muscle pain, joint misalignment, and arthritic conditions. Individuals who have TMJ may experience symptoms such as:
- Pain in one or both of the jaw joints, especially when chewing
- Decreased movement, or jaw locking
- Pain in or around the ear
- Clicking, grating, or cracking sounds with jaw movement
- Ringing in the ears
- Dizziness, or vertigo
- Generalized facial pain, sometimes extending to the neck
- Frequent headaches
- Jaw dislocation
- Dental issues such as tooth pain, loose teeth, or the shifting of teeth
How Common Is TMJ?
The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research states that around 10 million Americans suffer from TMJ. About 3.9% of adults and 4.6% of adolescents are diagnosed with this condition. Worldwide, research estimates that 39.2% of individuals who have it are struggling with at least one symptom. Not everyone living with it will experience all of the concerns above, but early treatment from physical therapy professionals can help manage existing symptoms and prevent the condition from worsening.
Can TMJ Be Managed?
While some symptoms may go away on their own, conservative treatment may be indicated. Doctors may prescribe muscle relaxers, pain relievers, or anti-inflammatory medications to assist with managing pain, stiffness, and muscle spasms that may result from TMJ. From a physical therapy standpoint, conservative treatments may include:
- Mouth guards or splints that keep the jaw properly aligned, allowing for healing and preventing teeth from grinding
- Exercises to strengthen and stretch the muscles of the jaw while improving the ability to move the mouth. Physical therapy providers can also provide exercises and self-massage techniques to encourage the separation of teeth when individuals are not swallowing, chewing, or talking.
- Therapeutic ultrasound, which uses low-frequency waves that give heat to deep tissues under the surface of the skin. This type of ultrasound helps to relieve pain, repair muscles, and improve range-of-motion.
- Lifestyle recommendations to educate individuals about factors that may cause or worsen symptoms. Individuals may be encouraged to avoid habits such as biting fingernails, jaw clenching, eating too many crunchy or hard foods, teeth grinding, and laying down while supporting the chin with your hands.
- Hot and cold therapy, including ice packs and moist heat, can lower pain levels and decrease some muscle stiffness.
How We Help You Find Relief
Though recovery can vary based on the source of the condition, individuals with TMJ who receive early diagnosis and treatment have a good chance of finding relief. In order to fully address this condition, individuals should seek care from experienced physical therapy providers who search for the root cause of TMJ and treat it accordingly.
At Healers of Motion Physical Therapy, our highly-qualified staff can help relieve your pain, assist you in becoming stronger, and improve your range-of-motion, while allowing you to live your life without the limitations of TMJ. For more information on physical therapy treatment for the symptoms of TMJ, contact us today!