When you’re taking a bite of your food and you feel a spike of pain in your jaw, you’re probably going to assume that a dentist appointment is in your future. But there’s a common jaw issue that is actually best treated at a physical therapy clinic near you.
TMJ dysfunction is a common way to refer to temporomandibular joint dysfunction, which can cause jaw pain and limited movement that makes it difficult to open your mouth wide to eat, yawn or laugh. While it’s possible for the pain to go away with a bit of time and patience, being proactive about the symptoms can help accelerate the healing process. That’s why you should explore TMJ physical therapy near you.
Read on to learn about TMJ dysfunction, the benefits of seeking TMJ physical therapy near you and potential techniques that your physical therapist may utilize during your sessions.
What is TMJ dysfunction?
Let’s start off with the basics. TMJ dysfunction refers to temporomandibular joint dysfunction, which means that the sliding hinge that connects your skull to your jaw isn’t properly working. It’s also often called temporomandibular joint disorder, temporomandibular joint and muscle disorder, or TMJD.
The most common symptoms of TMJD include:
- Feeling like your jaw is locking up.
- Altered jaw movement.
- Facial or neck pain.
- Clicking or popping sounds from the joint.
- Ringing in the ears (tinnitus).
TMJD isn’t uncommon by any means, so you’re not alone in feeling the jaw pain. In fact, it affects up to 12% of the population.
There are a few potential causes of TMJD, including:
- Teeth clenching and grinding.
- Broken or fractured jaw due to trauma.
How can TMJ physical therapy help alleviate your pain?
The reason why physical therapy for TMJ is an effective course of action is because it targets the cause and symptoms of the pain, not just the joint itself. TMJD symptoms usually stem from tense or spasming muscles surrounding the joint. Physical therapists know how to relieve the tension to increase the joint’s mobility and overall quality.
Here are a few benefits that can come from seeking TMJ physical therapy:
- Reduced pain and inflammation.
- Improved jaw mobility.
- Increased circulation to accelerate healing.
- Learning how to reduce future TMJD flare-ups.
What types of techniques are involved in TMJ physical therapy?
The goals of physical therapy for TMJ dysfunction are to help alleviate your symptoms as well as decrease the risk of them recurring in the future with strong and flexible jaw muscles. That’s why we have physical therapy techniques that provide pain management as well as increase the quality of your jaw joint.
There are a few different techniques that a physical therapist may recommend for your TMJ dysfunction, including:
- Manual therapy — TMJ physical therapy can provide pain management through manual therapy techniques. That means that the physical therapist uses their hands to manipulate the tight soft tissue around the joint that’s causing your aches and reduced mobility.
- Exercises — When TMJD causes reduced jaw mobility, it’s important to stretch the affected muscles to alleviate the tension. A physical therapist can walk you through targeted exercises for your jaw that will help stretch and relax the surrounding muscles. The exercises can also strengthen the muscles to improve the joint’s overall function.
- Dry needling — A common pain relief technique involves small needles. Dry needling is performed by a certified practitioner and uses thin, sterile needles that are inserted into the affected area. The needles cause the muscles to contract and release the tension that’s contributing to your TMJ pain.
- Iontophoresis — A noninvasive modality that is often used for TMJ is called iontophoresis. This process involves sending medication to the jaw using a mild, gentle electrical current. It’s used to deliver pain-relieving or anti-inflammatory medication to the affected area.
Lattimore PT can provide TMJ physical therapy near you
You utilize every muscle in your body on a daily basis without even realizing it. Actions like eating your favorite cereal or laughing at your friend’s joke require your jaw muscles to be as pain-free and functional as possible. So when you’re experiencing temporomandibular joint dysfunction, it’s important to be proactive about treatment. That’s where we come in.
Lattimore PT can provide TMJ physical therapy to help alleviate your pain as well as restore the jaw joint’s mobility and function.