Does your jaw frequently hurt?
Do you suffer from chronic headaches or dizzy spells?
Is it difficult to open and close your jaw to speak or eat?
If so, you may have a temporomandibular joint disorder.
Temporomandibular joint disorder, or TMJ disorder as it’s more commonly known, is a disorder of your jaw. It’s linked with a wide range of different disorders of your head, neck, and spine.
This disorder is growing increasingly common as more of us spend time at a computer desk working online. In fact, the TMJ Association reports that 30 million Americans are estimated to have a TMJ disorder.
But while this disorder can be frustrating and painful to live with, it doesn’t have to be.
Capitol Physical Therapy, a downtown Washington DC physical therapy clinic, can help. Our physical therapists specialize in treatments for TMJ disorders and a wide variety of other complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) physical therapy treatments.
Read on to find out more about what a TMJ disorder is, and how a physical therapy specialist for temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder can help.
What Is A TMJ Disorder?
A TMJ disorder is a disorder related to the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), the joint that connects your jaw to the rest of your skull.
If you put your fingers on the part of your head just in front of your ear, around where your head hair ends, and open and close your mouth, you can feel your TMJ at work.
Usually, your TMJ allows you to speak, chew, yawn, open and close your mouth, and do anything else you’d like to do with your mouth.
But with a TMJ disorder, your TMJ is limited. It can either not function fully, or feel painful when you use it.
Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Disorder Symptoms
The most common temporomandibular joint disorder symptom is pain in your jaw. Other symptoms can include:
- Jaw fatigue
- Jaw locking in place
- Ringing in your ears
- Popping sounds in your jaw when you move it
- Dizzy spells
- Chronic headaches
- Chronic neck pain
These symptoms can be temporary or ongoing.
It’s important to note as well, though, that pain in your jaw can also be a sign of a heart attack. If you experience sudden jaw pain along with chest pain, dizziness, left arm pain or numbness, nausea, or shortness of breath, seek emergency care immediately.
Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction Causes
There are a number of different possible TMJ dysfunction causes. Let’s take a closer look at each of them.
As it becomes more common to work at a computer desk all day, TMJ disorders have become more common. This is because many of us haven’t created a workspace that’s ergonomically optimized.
In particular, many of us hunch forward, holding our head in an angle from our spine, rather than directly above it. This can put pressure on your spine, as well as your TMJ.
Other cases of poor posture can lead to TMJ issues as well, though. If you work in retail or food service, you spend a lot of time commuting in a car, or you carry your child awkwardly, these can lead to TMJ disorders as well.
A Fractured Jaw
If you’ve experienced trauma to your head or face, it may cause a fracture in your lower jaw. This can lead to a TMJ disorder.
This may heal as your fracture heals, but you may experience long term jaw stiffness and chronic pain.
Bruxism is chronic jaw clenching. It’s usually due to stress.
It’s most common for people to clench their jaws at night while sleeping. You may find yourself clenching during the day as well though, particularly during stressful situations.
This jaw clenching puts strain on your TMJ. This can lead to, among other things, chronic headaches. As a result, many seek out physical therapy for headaches, only to find out it’s caused by bruxism.
Other Possible Causes
Other possible temporomandibular joint dysfunction causes include:
- Jaw or face surgery
- Malocclusion (misaligned teeth)
How Can Physical Therapy For Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Disorder Help?
If you’ve not yet received a TMJ disorder diagnosis, your physical therapist can help.
They will review your medical history, paying particular attention to any surgeries or injuries you may have experienced to your jaw, neck, or the rest of your head, as well as your pain symptoms.
From there, they will conduct a physical exam of your TMJ and the surrounding areas. They will also check your posture and spine movement.
At that point, your physical therapist may diagnose you with a TMJ disorder.
Next comes treatment.
If your TMJ disorder is a result of an issue with your teeth, your physical therapist will refer you to a dentist.
Otherwise, your physical therapist can help.
Here are some of the ways your physical therapy specialist for TMJ disorder treatments can help.
1. Manual Therapy
Using manual therapy, your physical therapist will work to increase your ability to move your jaw, as well as working on pain management. The goal with manual therapy is to restore the normal flexibility of your muscles and joints.
In some cases, your TMJ may have scar tissue built up around it, a result of frequent injury and stress. Manual therapy can help break up this scar tissue.
In the case of a TMJ disorder, your jaw has had a lot of pressure exerted on it. This is often what causes it in the first place. As a result, your physical therapy specialist for TMJ disorder treatments won’t want to provide you with intense exercises.
Instead, they will provide gentle exercises that work to strengthen your jaw muscles without overexerting it. This can help restore movement and reduce pain
3. Improving Your Posture
Being aware of your posture is a factor when it comes to many physical therapy issues, but it’s particularly important for TMJ disorders.
Holding your posture in a forward position can cause a wide variety of different issues, one of which is a TMJ disorder. By teaching you to be more aware of your posture and the stress it’s placing on your jaw, your physical therapy specialist for TMJ disorder treatments can help you deal with the root cause of your TMJ disorder.
Book Your Appointment With Capitol Physical Therapy
Are you struggling with a TMJ disorder?
Or, do you have chronic jaw pain and are wondering if a TMJ disorder is at the root of it?
Either way, we can help.
The dedicated physical therapy specialist for TMJ disorder treatments at Capitol Physical Therapy are ready to work toward a healthier, more relaxed, pain free lifestyle for you.
Book your appointment with Capitol Physical Therapy today.