Jaw pain can be debilitating as our jaw is one of the most active joints in our body. Our jaw allows us to talk, chew, and yawn.
The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is the pivot point for the lower jaw and unfortunately, due to its constant use, the TMJ is also susceptible to injury and pain.
So, what is the best way to combat TMJ and the pain and discomfort associated with it?
In most cases, regular exercise (yes, exercise for your jaw!) and physiotherapy are the best things you can do for TMJ.
This blog takes a closer at what TMJ is, the symptoms, its causes and treatment options.
Read on to see how physio and exercise can be an effective way to treat TMJ.
TMJ refers to the two joints that connect to the lower jaw (mandible) to the temporal bone of the skull.
In between this connection is a disc, that allows the joint to glide smoothly when opening and closing your jaw. The joint is also held in place by muscles and ligaments.
TMJ disorders can occur when the disc becomes displaced. The disc is a small, round cushion that sits between the ball and the socket of the joint. It acts as a shock absorber for the joint.
When the disc becomes displaced, it can cause pain and clicking in the joint. The displacement may also cause the joint to lock.
TMJ dysfunction usually presents as jaw pain, however, pain may not always be present in this condition.
Common symptoms include:
- Pain in the jaw joints and facial muscles. It can also present as referral pain into the neck
- Pain when chewing, yawning, talking
- Pain or difficulty opening or closing the mouth
- Clicking, grinding, or locking symptoms
- Headaches and dizziness
Causes of TMJ
TMJ dysfunction can be caused by a variety of factors leading to pain and symptoms. It can even arise from a combination of causes.
Common causes of TMJ include:
- Trauma – direct trauma to the joint or jaw can lead to hypermobility or result in scarring process causing stiffness.
- Overactivity – such as habitual clenching through the day or grinding the teeth at night.
- Poor posture – having poor head/neck posture can change the alignment of the jaw and lead to increase muscle overactivity.
- Wear and tear – of the cartilage inside the joint.
Treatment for TMJ dysfunction: Can a physio help?
Physiotherapy can be an effective treatment for TMJ disorders, reducing pain and inflammation while improving joint function.
Physios use various assessment techniques to help determine the cause leading to jaw dysfunction, from this they can create an individualised treatment plan to target the problem.
Some common therapies a Physiotherapist may use to treat TMJ involve:
- Soft tissue therapy (massage) to reduce muscle overactivity.
- TMJ joint mobilisation to reduce muscle spasms and improve joint movement.
- TMJ strengthening and stabilisation exercises to improve movement pattern and hypermobility;
- Postural advice for jaw and neck posture.
- Education on pain management;
- Managing load and stresses on the jaw.
Can TMJ Exercises Help?
Yes, strengthening and stretching exercises can help relieve pain, reduce stiffness, and restore normal joint function and alignment.
Stretches can help reduce muscle overactivity/tightness due to clenching. Stretching can also help improve and maintain the range of motion of the jaw.
Strengthening exercises can help reduce hypermobility and improve joint alignment and the movement pattern of the jaw.
TMJ Physio: How to get Relief from Jaw Pain
TMJ can be very debilitating, especially if it is left untreated. In this blog we covered what TMJ is, the symptoms and its causes.
We also discovered why physio treatment and exercise effective ways to treat TMJ.
If you think you may have a TMJ disorder, we encourage you to call us today and book an appointment.
North West Physiotherapy is your one-stop pain relief and healthy living practice in Brisbane. With six clinics across North Brisbane; Everton Park, Keperra, Eatons Hill, Nundah, Lutchwyche and Newmarket, our aim is to provide holistic healthcare solution to suit your specific lifestyle.
Our services include Physiotherapy, Sports Physio, Hydrotherapy, Pilates, Podiatry, Dry Needling, Massage, Womens Health, and Seniors Strength and Balance Classes. Please note that services vary across our clinics.
Contact your local clinic to book an appointment.