Your Guide To Doctors, Health Information, and Better Health!
Your Health Magazine Logo
The following article was published in Your Health Magazine. Our mission is to empower people to live healthier.
Emmanuel Moses, PT, CMTPT
TMJ and Physical Therapy
Evidence PT
. http://www.evidencept.com/

TMJ and Physical Therapy

The temporomandibular joint (also known as TMJ) is used throughout the day. This joint is located in front of the ear on either side of the head where the upper and lower jaws meet.

It is a common perception that TMJ dysfunction requires a visit to a dentist or orthodontist. Rightly so, because this isn't something most people would associate with physical therapy. However, did you know that the muscles of the neck and jaw are closely connected to the muscles of the shoulders and neck? Weakness or dysfunction in the neck and shoulder muscles affects the muscles surrounding the jaw and this is one of the causes of TMJ problems.

In the early stages, the individual may experience difficulty talking, chewing, yawning, sneezing, and swallowing. Over a period of time, the symptoms can get worse. They may include headaches, ear pain, bite problems, clicking sounds, and locked jaw.

What Causes TMJ?

There are several causes for TMJ problems. These include teeth grinding, habitual gum chewing, dental problems, trauma or injury to the jaws and occupational tasks that trigger muscle imbalances in the neck and shoulder.

As a direct result of muscle imbalance, the TMJ attempts to compensate for the misalignment. Normally, TMJ motion is smooth and coordinated, allowing the jaw to move sideways, forward, open and close. When the movement occurs in an imbalanced manner, the result is added stress and strain on the ligaments and the muscles of the jaw. This can lead to a number of symptoms including jaw and facial pain, clicking and popping when opening and closing the mouth, difficulty opening the jaw, neck pain and headaches.

Stress is a common trigger for TMJ dysfunction. Self-awareness and relaxation techniques can be beneficial.

Physical Therapy and TMJ

A dentist can evaluate the problem. However, if TMJ dysfunction is associated with headache or pain in the jaw, neck or shoulders, a referral to a physical therapist can be helpful.

The therapist will evaluate the jaw and mouth to determine the amount of mobility and tension in the surrounding muscles. This evaluation includes a detailed assessment, which will serve as the foundation for an exercise program to address muscle imbalances. Strengthening, stretching, and relaxation techniques will help reduce pain and restore function.

Untreated TMJ dysfunction can result in your impaired concentration, inability to chew food, difficulty sleeping and psychological distress. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of TMJ dysfunction, contact your physical therapist. TMJ imbalance can be treated successfully.

MD (301) 805-6805 | VA (703) 288-3130