Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJ) is a painful condition that affects the jaw joint and muscles used for chewing and speaking.
In this article, we'll explore TMJ disorder in more detail, including its causes, symptoms, and treatment options. We'll also provide some tips for managing TMJ pain at home.
What is TMJ Disorder?
The temporomandibular joint is the hinge joint that connects your jawbone to your skull. It allows you to move your jaw up and down and side to side, which is essential for chewing, speaking, and other daily activities. TMJ disorder is a condition that affects this joint, causing pain and discomfort in the jaw, face, neck, and shoulders.
There are several potential causes of TMJ disorder, including:
Trauma or injury to the jaw or joint
Arthritis or other degenerative joint diseases
Bruxism (teeth grinding)
Poor posture or stress on the neck and shoulders
Dental problems or misalignment of the teeth
Symptoms of TMJ Disorder
The symptoms of TMJ disorder can vary depending on the severity of the condition. Some common symptoms include:
Pain or tenderness in the jaw joint or muscles
Difficulty or discomfort when chewing or speaking
Clicking or popping sounds when moving the jaw
Limited range of motion in the jaw
Headaches or earaches
'Fullness' of the ears
Neck pain or stiffness
Dizziness or vertigo
Ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
Diagnosing TMJ Disorder
If you're experiencing any of the symptoms of TMJ disorder, it's important to see a healthcare professional. Your physical therapist will perform a physical examination of your jaw and neck to check for tenderness, swelling, or muscle spasms. They may also request imaging tests, such as X-rays or MRI scans, to get a better look at the joint and surrounding tissues.
Treatment Options for TMJ Disorder
There are several treatment options for TMJ disorder, depending on the severity of the condition. In mild cases, self-care techniques such as applying heat or cold to the affected area, practicing relaxation techniques, and avoiding hard or crunchy foods can help relieve pain and discomfort.
For more severe cases, you may benefit from one or more of the following treatments:
1.) Medications: Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, can help reduce pain and inflammation. Muscle relaxants or antidepressants may also be prescribed in some cases. This option only create symptoms, meaning it can give you relief (possibly) when you really need it. However, medications will not identify and fix the root cause.
2.) Dental treatments: If TMJ disorder is caused by dental problems, such as misalignment of the teeth or a bad bite, your dentist may recommend orthodontic treatment or other dental procedures to alight the teeth and jaw. Generally we find that this treatment sets the stage for recovery because now you have a solid foundation. However, you have still not addressed the muscles, joints and movement patterns that may cause dysfunction.
3.) Physical therapy: In PT we evaluation the specific structures generating pain, muscle, joint, sass, disc etc. From there we analyze why are the structures in pain, are there movement patterns, imbalances, postures, old injuries of the head, neck and shoulder region causing you to be stuck in a loop.
Once we have evaluated and identified the root cause, we can put a plan in place that consists of hands on therapy, corrective movements and home exercises. We also need to evaluate your environment (bed, pillow, desk setup, car etc) to see how you could be continuing to place yourself in pain generating postures.
4.) Surgery: In rare cases, surgery may be necessary to correct severe damage to the joint or surrounding tissues. This is a last resort and in our experience not very common.
We hope that helps give a little more clarity around TMJ Disorder (TMD), the causes and your treatment options.
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If you have further questions regarding this blog post or other tips that can help you to relieve your headache, Contact Us at Skyline Physical Therapy!