The Joint Ventures' Blog

From Foodies To Nappers: How PT Can Help With Your Jaw Pain

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Every month at Joint Ventures, we focus on a different clinical topic to dive into more deeply.  We find it helps us better educate our patients regarding a certain condition or abnormal movement pattern. This month, we're talking about the temporomandibular joint (TMJ).

Does your jaw repetitively pop and click while munching on popcorn? Do you grind your teeth when you sleep or clench your jaw when you’re stressed? Do any of these activities cause you jaw pain or headaches? If you said yes to any (or all) of these, you may have a TMJ disorder…but, have no fear! Physical Therapists may be able to help!

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Your TMJ is one of the most commonly used joints in the body. Known as a “hinge” joint, it's located in front of your ear and it connects the jaw (the mandible) to the temporal bone of your skull (you now see the source of its name: temporo-mandibular). Your TMJ, along with the muscles attached in this area, allow you to open your mouth, to eat and chew, and to talk.

TMJ disorders are a group of conditions that cause pain and dysfunction in the jaw and the muscles around the TMJ, including the cervical spine (neck). There are many factors that can cause TMJ disorders to arise, and often the pain felt with TMJ dysfunction can be due to a combination of these factors:

-Poor posture habits
-Tooth pain
-Chronic jaw clenching, or “bruxism”
-Problems with teeth alignment, or “malocclusion”
-Jaw or skull fractures
-Face and jaw surgeries
-Lockjaw, or “trismus”
-Displacement of the disc, or soft tissue cushion, located between the ball and socket of the TMJ
-Arthritis

Yes, there are a lot of things that cause jaw pain; but, how do you know if you have a TMJ related disorder? Often symptoms include jaw pain or fatigue, difficulty opening your mouth to talk or eat, ringing in your ears, dizziness, headaches, popping/clicking sounds in your jaw, neck pain, and/or locking of your jaw. 2

Horizontal portrait of brunette Asian female has headache after noisy party, clenches teeth and holds hands on temples. Disappointed young female worker overworked after making advertising content

It's important to note that often jaw pain can also be a sign of a heart attack.  So it's imperative that if you have any of the above symptoms, as well as chest pain, shortness of breath, left arm pain or numbness, and/or nausea, you immediately go to the closest emergency department.

But back to TMJ disorders! If after reading this you believe you may have a TMJ disorder, you're in luck! At Joint Ventures, we have physical therapists who are trained to help manage TMJ disorders and the other factors that contribute to the pain TMJ disorders cause (like headaches and poor posture, for example). With your physical therapist, you will work on improving your posture to decrease strain on your jaw and neck. They will also provide hands-on techniques to improve your jaw motion and will create a home program to manage symptoms specific to your needs....which may include taking a break from popcorn! 


If you have any questions or concerns, or would like to schedule an appointment, please reach out to us at 617-536-1161 or e-mail Courtney at Courtney.Chaulk@JointVenturesPT.com. Let us help you keep your sleeping, eating, and smiling pain free!

 

References:

  1. Furto ES. Physical Therapist’s Guide to Temporomandibular Joint Disorder. Move Forward.https://www.moveforwardpt.com/SymptomsConditionsDetail.aspx?cid=0cb55ce4-d260-4887-ad29-d8cb18e0b91e
  2. Gauer RL, Semidev MJ. Diagnosis and treatment of temporomandibular disorders. Am Fam Physician. 2015;91:378-386.

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