The TemporoMandibular Joint (TMJ) is a joint near your ear that allows you to open and close your mouth, speak and chew. Pain in this area can occur when there is irritation to the joint, the joint disc, or the muscles surrounding the joint.
What TMJ conditions can physiotherapists treat?
Physiotherapy can be a very effective treatment for various TMJ dysfunctions including anterior disc displacements with and without reduction, hypermobility syndrome, hypomobility syndrome, and TMJ myofascial pain. These conditions can often be associated with neck pain and headaches which can also be treated by a physiotherapist.
What Causes TMJ Disorders?
Painful TMJ disorders can be caused by
- Bruxism (Grinding/clenching teeth)
- Excessive or too little jaw mobility
- Poor posture
- Eating lots of crunchy/chewy foods
- Direct trauma to the jaw
- Age-related changes to the joint
Signs and symptoms of TMJ dysfunction
- Pain and clicking in the jaw
- Pain/soreness in the neck
- Bruxism (clenching/grinding teeth)
- Tinnitus (ringing in the ear)
What can patients expect at physiotherapy?
All patients seen for physiotherapy are assessed for both TMJ and cervical spine dysfunction. Treatment is based on initial findings, and can include a mix of hands on joint mobilizations, soft tissue release, acupuncture, and exercise prescription. Another key component of these sessions will include education on topics including posture, bruxism and activity modification. contact us for an appointment.
How long do most patients need to attend physiotherapy?
Most patients will find significant improvements after the first couple of sessions if they are performing their home exercise program and following activity modifications, however, progress can vary significantly from patient to patient. Many patients are ready to manage independently after 3-4 sessions, while some patients may need to follow-up intermittently for a couple of months. If a patient has not shown any improvements after 3-4 weeks, I like to have them follow-up with their dentist for additional investigation and see if a night guard or other treatment options need to be discussed.
Tips for pain related to TMJ disorders
Do the following:
- Wear your mouth guard at night if prescribed by a dentist
- When yawning, support the bottom jaw with your index finger
- Sit up tall, especially when eating
- Keep your teeth apart when resting
- Rest your tongue on the roof of your mouth behind your front teeth as much as possible
- Keep your mouth closed
- Do your home exercise program as prescribed
Try to avoid the following:
- Slouching and forward head posture
- Chewing heavy meats, nuts, raw carrots
- Taking big bites
- Do not chew gum, pens, necklaces, etc
- Intentionally clicking your jaw
- Clenching your teeth together
- Stop nail biting
- Limit speaking if it is an aggravating factor
- Do not rest your chin on your hand
- If you use ear plugs, avoid them for a week and see if it makes a difference
Learn More about Treatment for Jaw Pain
Check out our video on Jaw pain here.