Types of Treatment
Tempromandibular Disorder (TMD) is made up of symptoms that involve the jaw and surrounding facial muscles, teeth, ears, and neck.
Common symptoms include:
- TMJ pain (pain in the joint)
- Face or jaw pain
- Ear pain
- Ringing in the ears
- Joint sounds (popping, clicking, or grinding)
- Muscle pain and/or tenderness
- Limited mouth opening or closing, or sideward movements
- Neck Pain
Note: a person may have one or more of these conditions at the same time.
Treatment will usually consist of a combination of exercise, manipulation, mobilization, stretching, heat, and electric stimulation.
Common Causes of TMD:
- Myofascial pain: The most common form of TMD; discomfort or pain in the muscles that control jaw function and the neck and shoulder muscles.
- Internal Derangement of the Joint: a dislocated jaw or displaced disc, or injury to the condyle.
- Degenerative Joint Disease: such as osteoporosis or rheumatoid arthritis in the jaw joint.
TMJ Treatment: How a Physical Therapist Can Help
Your physical therapist can help restore the natural movement of your jaw and decrease your pain. If the therapist determines that your jaw pain is not related to teeth alignment, the therapist will select treatments that will work best for you. TMJ treatments used by physical therapists for TMD include:
If your therapist finds that you sit with your head in an increased forward position, this means that you are placing greater strain on the muscles beneath your chin, causing the lower jaw to pull back and the mouth to be in an open position even when resting, and increasing stress on the TMJ. You also might be overworking the jaw muscles to force the jaw closed so your mouth isn't open all the time. Your therapist will teach you to be aware of your posture so that you can improve the resting position of your jaw, head, neck, breastbone, and shoulder blades when you're sitting and walking.
Improve Jaw Movement
Physical therapists use skilled hand movements called manual therapy to increase movement and relieve pain in tissues and joints. Your therapist also might use manual therapy to stretch the jaw in order to restore normal joint and muscle flexibility (how supple your muscles are) or break up scar tissues ("adhesions") that sometimes develop when there is constant injury.
Your physical therapist will teach you special "low-load" exercises-exercises that don't exert a lot of pressure on your TMJ but that can strengthen the muscles of the jaw and restore a more natural, pain-free motion.
Maintaining good sitting posture is key to preventing TMJ problems. Your physical therapist will show you how to maintain good sitting posture to prevent future episodes of TMD.