Temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJD) is a condition in which the parts of the jaw do not function correctly together during jaw movement, frequently leading to painful symptoms and problems with jaw activities such as chewing or speaking. This condition can be caused by problems with the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) itself or with the muscles which surround and support the jaw.
TMJ dysfunction can be caused by a variety of factors including injury, stress, and arthritis. Symptoms of TMJ dysfunction can include among others, jaw pain, headache, and neck pain. There are a number of treatments available for TMJ dysfunction and at the Unpain Clinic we want to help you find the right one. Read on for more information about TMJ dysfunction and how we can help you.
What is the TMJ?
The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is located just in front of the ears and is made where the mandible (jaw bone) contacts the temporal bone of the skull. There is one on each side of the head and each has an attached disk. The whole thing is then enclosed by a ligamentous capsule and surrounded by muscles which move the jaw.
What causes TMJ dysfunction?
If any of the structures of the jaw are disrupted by injury, arthritis, infection or overuse, dysfunction can result. Some of the most common reasons for TMJ dysfunction include teeth grinding (bruxism) or clenching, a history of frequent dental or orthodontic work, blows to the face/acute trauma, stress, or even an improper bite.
What helps jaw pain with TMJ?
Every case of TMJ pain is unique and will require its own treatment plan, but in general, there are a few things you can do at home for jaw pain including:
- Using a cold compress or ice on the painful area
- Consulting with a pharmacist about appropriate over-the-counter medications to relieve pain and inflammation.
- Avoiding very chewy, hard or crunchy foods
- Limiting chewing gum use
- Limiting conversation and chatting to what is essential
- Performing self-massage of the jaw and face
Why Does My TMJ (Jaw) Hurt?
There can be many reasons why your TMJ (jaw) hurts. It could be a result of something simple like stress, jaw clenching, grinding your teeth, chewing gum too often or even poor posture. Your jaw pain could also be related to something more complicated like an underlying arthritic or metabolic condition. In some cases, the pain could even be due to an injury to the jaw (even many years down the line). If you are having jaw pain make sure you see your dentist, medical doctor, chiropractor or physiotherapist for an assessment and to discuss treatment options.
What Are The Symptoms of TMJ?
The symptoms of TMJ syndrome can vary from person to person and can include:
- Jaw, facial or tooth pain
- Swelling on one side of the face
- Pain in the neck or shoulders or at the base of the skull
- Difficulty opening the mouth wide or closing your mouth
- Jaw locking (can be in an open or closed position)
- Clicking, popping, grating or “gravelly” sounds when moving the jaw
- Problems with chewing or with speech
- A feeling of your face being tired or heavy
- Earache type pain in the absence of any other signs or symptoms of ear infection
- Ringing in your ears (tinnitus)
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it is important to see a doctor or dentist to determine if you might have a TMJ problem. Your chiropractor or physiotherapist may also be able to help you if you are suffering from jaw pain.
Can the TMJ cause headaches?
Potentially. We know that headaches can be a common symptom of TMJD, but there isn’t a lot of research to substantiate how or why this happens. In some cases, headaches can also cause worsening of TMJD symptoms. If you do have headaches and you believe that they may be related to your TMJ, see your doctor, dentist, physiotherapist or chiropractor for an assessment.
How does Physiotherapy Eliminate TMJ Dysfunction and Pain?
Physiotherapy (and chiropractic) can potentially help to eliminate TMJ dysfunction and pain. The goal of therapy is to restore proper movement and function to the jaw and to minimize pain, tension and inflammation. This can be done using manual therapy (massage, mobilization, adjustments) and/or some modalities such as shockwave therapy, laser therapy, TENS, ultrasound or others. Additionally your healthcare provider should provide education and advice about lifestyle modifications, rehab exercises and at home pain relief strategies to help you feel empowered in addressing your TMJD.
FAQ about TMJ Dysfunction in Edmonton
Can TMJ be cured by physiotherapy?
Physiotherapy can potentially be helpful for reducing pain and improving jaw function in some cases of TMJD, in others, the only solution may be dental work, splinting or surgery. The right type of treatment for any TMJ problem depends greatly on the cause of the dysfunction.
How will physiotherapy help with my TMJ Dysfunction?
Physiotherapy (or chiropractic) can help to improve range of motion at the jaw and reduce inflammation and pain. Your healthcare provider can also provide advice on how to manage your activities to allow for better healing and how to treat symptoms at home. Physiotherapy can be used on its own, or in combination with other treatments such as medication, dental work, splinting or surgery to help manage jaw pain.
Is it safe to treat TMJ dysfunction with physical therapy?
Yes -as long your healthcare provider has done a thorough assessment of your problem and determined that the cause of your TMJ pain can be treated appropriately with physiotherapy techniques. If your jaw pain is the result of a broader systemic issue requiring medical care or if you require dental intervention, you should be referred as appropriate.
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Our therapists will assess your situation and formulate a True Shockwave™, Radial Pressure Wave or Flashwave® treatment plan appropriate for achieving the most effective and lasting results.