How Physiotherapy Can Help with Temporomandibular Joint Problems
The joint connecting our jawbone to our skull is called the Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ). It acts as a sliding hinge that allows opening, closing, and side to side movement of the mouth. Problems on this joint become the main cause of facial, neck and headache pain. More often than not, jaw pain can be so severe that it impacts one’s quality of life. This is why the existence of such problems should be addressed immediately. One answer to this problem is Physiotherapy.
TMJ Physiotherapy treatment requires extensive postgraduate training and a diverse approach. A number of treatment techniques may be included by a physiotherapist in your treatment plan. A variety of therapy methods can be selected, including manual therapy, IMS, acupuncture, and specific exercise. There will always be a need to visit a dentist to verify if the use of a mouth guard is necessary.
At Evergreen Rehab and Wellness, we can help you with TMJ problems, we have skilled and trained physiotherapists to handle your condition.
Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction
Disorders in your Temporomandibular Joint can cause pain in that area and affect your muscle movement. The act of moving your mouth involved in eating and talking can become painful for you and hinder these daily activities. While the exact cause of TMJ disorders is often hard to pinpoint, its risk factors may be directed to a combination of factors such as jaw injury, arthritis or genetics. Bruxism or the tendency to clench or grind one’s teeth may also lead to TMJ disorders, although some people don’t necessarily develop this problem.
Pain and discomfort related to TMJ disorders can be managed with nonsurgical treatments and is often temporary. Surgery is the last resort when all alternative measures have not been effective for the patient.
Symptoms of TMJ Disorders
TMJ Disorders include a number of signs and symptoms in various areas of the upper body. Here are the symptoms according to each particular area:
- Pain or tenderness of your jaw
- Pain in one or both of the temporomandibular joints
- Aching pain in and around your ear
- Joint locking, making it impossible to open or close your mouth
- Sensation of clicking or grating when you open your mouth
- Difficulty chewing or pain while chewing
- Aching facial pain
- Muscle spasms
- Chronic headaches
- Chronic neck pain
Jaw clicking associated with pain or a limitation of movement can serve as the main indication that you might be needing treatment. If there are none of the things mentioned you are currently experiencing, there is no need for treatment.
Causes of TMJ Disorders
There may be a number of causes and risk factors that lead to the development of a TMJ disorder. Normally, the movement of the joint is smooth with no pain involved, separated by a small shock-absorbing disk and covered with cartilage. When there is pain and limitation of movement that occurs, then the problem begins.
Some causes include:
- The disk connecting the bones may have eroded or moved out of its proper alignment
- Arthritis that damaged the joint's cartilage
- A blow or any kind of impact that damaged the joint
However, in many cases, the cause of TMJ disorders cannot be determined.
Some factors that increase the risk of this disorder include:
- Arthritis, such as osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis
- Chronic grinding or clenching of teeth
- Jaw Injury
- Connective tissue diseases that may affect the TMJ
- Prolonged Mouth Opening
- Poor Cervical Posture
- Mandibular Malalignment
- Myofascial Pain
- Neuropsychological Factors
- Stress and Whiplash
- Trauma (impact on face, skull, chin, etc.)
- Anatomical Abnormalities
How TMJ Disorders are Diagnosed
Disorders in the Temporomandibular Joint can be diagnosed by a TMJ Physiotherapist, Dental practitioner or an Oral Maxillofacial Surgeon. The type of diagnosis associated with this disorder is a Diagnosis of Clinical Movement Disorder. In the diagnosis, dental X-rays, CT Scan, or MRI can be recommended to further analyze and investigate your condition. Disorders in the Temporomandibular Joint can be diagnosed by a TMJ Physiotherapist, Dental practitioner or an Oral Maxillofacial Surgeon. The type of diagnosis associated with this disorder is a Diagnosis of Clinical Movement Disorder. In the diagnosis, dental X-rays, CT Scan, or MRI can be recommended to further analyze and investigate your condition.
How Physiotherapy Can Help
Your physiotherapist will investigate your condition and determine its severity by assessing your medical history, dentist visits, and relevant eating and sleeping habits. Physiotherapy will help restore your jaw’s natural movement and aim to relieve the pain through a treatment plan that works best for you. Some of the treatments may include:
Better posture can lessen the stress on the TMJ and the strain on the muscles beneath your chin. Posture education will help you improve your resting position to relieve your jaw, neck, breastbone and shoulder blades from stress when you’re sitting and walking.
Improving Jaw Movement
Manual therapy can be used by physical therapists to gradually increase movement and relieve pain in joints and tissues. Through this technique, the jaw is stretched to restore its normal flexibility and break up scar tissues that form during injury. The jaw muscles can be improved by “low-load” exercises while exerting less pressure on the TMJ for pain-free motion.
Special Pain Treatments
Electrical stimulation and ultrasound may be provided to reduce any severe pain you are feeling.
Referral to a Dentist
TMJ conditions caused by misalignment of the teeth can be referred to a dentist specializing in TMD. A dentist may be able to correct the alignment with special equipment that provides a normal resting place for the TMJ, such as 'bite guards.
Want to book an appointment at Evergreen Rehab and Wellness Clinic? Call us at 604-449-5859 to find the best solution. We will help you to enjoy a painless and healthy lifestyle.
Frequently Asked Questions
Bruxism or constant teeth grinding will place pressure on the tissues, muscles, and supporting structures of the jaw that may cause pain, misalignment, and joint dysfunction.
The number of treatments would depend on how severe your condition is. 6 weeks is recommended to treat the pain for acute, non-traumatic TMJ disorders. Chronic TMJ cases may require 10-12 visits and occasional check-ups every 3-6 months.
The physiotherapist’s role is to create a treatment plan that best suits you which would include learning and practising techniques to restore your normal jaw movement. Their treatment may also include improvement of your neck and body posture.
Disorders like these may also be addressed through learning how to relax the muscle combined with stretching and physiotherapy techniques such as acupuncture and muscle work. Your physiotherapist may work closely with your dentist or doctor to correctly create a treatment plan that will effectively solve the root of your TMJ disorder.
TMJ Disorders can be prevented through being mindful of how you use this joint. This can be done through:
- Keep your face calm and relaxed, with your lips close and your teeth apart
- Reducing the consumption of food that needs a great deal of chewing (chewing gum, steak, etc.)
- During challenging tasks, wear a mouth guard to prevent grinding and clenching your teeth by wearing a mouthguard and
- Regularly massage your temples, lips, and jaws.
While TMJ is thankfully not a life-threatening condition, the pain may gradually increase if it is left untreated for a long time. The reason for contacting a physician as soon as possible should be to feel pain and discomfort in your jaw and face, along with hindering the quality of life due to limited movement. Pain and discomfort left untreated may lead to anxiety and depression. The good news is that TMJ is not a life-threatening condition.