When most people think of physiotherapy, they think of backs, necks, shoulders, knees, feet, etc. But did you know that physiotherapy can also be used to reduce jaw pain? It’s true! Physiotherapy can be used to treat a number of symptoms caused by Temporomandibular joint dysfunction or TMJ syndrome. Here’s what you need to know:
- UNDERSTANDING TMJ: TMJ syndrome is what is considered a “symptom complex” rather than a single condition. This means that is a cluster of related issues that have many common features. At its most basic, TMJ syndrome is pain in the jaw joint. The TMJ is the joint that connects your lower jaw to your skull. TMJ syndrome is caused by many medical problems and about 20-30% of the population is affected by it in some degree.
- SYMPTOMS: There are a number of different symptoms associated with TMJ issues. In addition to pain in the jaw joint and just in front of the ear, TMJ issues can also cause pain in your head, neck, face and ears. Difficulty opening and closing your mouth, popping or clicking noises when you chew, headaches, problems biting and various other issues can occur with TMJ problems.
- TREATMENT: There are a number of treatments available for TMJ issues. The specific treatment for each person will depend on their particular circumstances. As mentioned, TMJ syndrome is typically caused by several issues, not a single problem. In some cases, TMJ problems are caused by trauma, such as whiplash due to a car accident. In other causes, issues result due to tension and degeneration that occur over time. For example, a long period of grinding your teeth or clenching your jaw can lead to TMJ pain. The cause of your pain will determine the treatment process. The severity of your issue will also affect the length of the treatment process. Physiotherapy is often used to increase the range of motion in the joint as well as to reduce pain and other negative effects. A physiotherapist will first work to analyze your situation and access your TMJ joint as well as the surrounding structures such as the spine and shoulders. A posture analysis is crucial as poor posture and neck mobility can lead to TMJ pain. Once your situation has been fully assessed, the physiotherapist will outline your treatment program. Manual stimulation, stretching and massage therapy techniques are used to increase range of motion in the jaw (for example, to make it easier and less painful to open the jaw more fully). In some cases, the pain of TMJ syndrome can discourage people from opening and closing their jaws fully. Over time, it becomes more difficult to do. In other cases, there are physical issues that prevent a standard range of motion. By physically massaging and manipulating the affected joints, a physiotherapist can increase your range of motion while also decreasing pain.
If you’d like to learn more about how physiotherapy can help with jaw pain, or any other type of pain you may be experiencing, please don’t hesitate to give us a call. Remember, at Physiomed…Healthier Starts Here.