Most people never give the temporomandibular joint – otherwise known as the TMJ – a second thought. It isn’t until a person starts experiencing jaw discomfort that they consider how the joint impacts chewing, talking, and resting. Many people dealing with TMJ dysfunction experience clicking and popping noises when they open and close their mouths. Shifting, catching, or locking of the jaw may also occur. This can be a frightening experience at first, but TMJ dysfunction is fairly common.
What Causes TMJ Dysfunction?
There are a number of potential causes of TMJ dysfunction. A person may present with symptoms because of poor posture, muscle tightness, overuse of the masseter muscle, teeth grinding, as well as stress and anxiety. In many cases, there are multiple causes behind the discomfort. As the TMJ becomes inflamed, patients experience pain and seek medical attention. Thankfully, TMJ dysfunction is highly treatable.
How Physical Therapy Can Help
Physical therapy is one of the most effective tools for treating TMJ dysfunction. Therapists can address the root cause of your condition to determine exactly how to treat your symptoms. A thorough subjective assessment can determine exactly what is causing your discomfort, allowing your therapist to develop a targeted treatment plan. TMJ dysfunction is often linked to related behaviors that can be modified to treat symptoms. The TMJ is a joint like any other – with too much strain and pressure applied, it will inevitably hurt.
Treatment interventions may include:
- Motor control drills that target the Deep Neck Flexor (DNF) and Periscapular (shoulder blade)
- Joint mobilization/manipulation to the upper & lower cervical spine, upper & mid thoracic (mid back) spine
- Intraoral joint distraction and mobilization techniques to the TMJ
- Soft tissue mobilization, trigger point therapy & stretching to the neck muscles
- Soft tissue mobilization, trigger point therapy (both extraorally and intraorally) to the jaw muscles
- The creation of a more effective ergonomic set up at home or in the office
- Discussion of strategies for stress management & awareness of resting jaw and tongue positions
If you’re experiencing TMJ discomfort, don’t delay – our team can help you better understand why you’re in pain and how to keep it at bay. Contact Physical Therapy Partners today to schedule your appointment!