TMJ syndrome refers to pain or dysfunction of the temporomandibular joint. It affects only 5-12% of the general population. The temporomandibular joint, or TMJ, connects the jaw to the skull bone. Each person has two temporomandibular joints on either side of their head, just in front of the ears. The TMJ allows for side-to-side and up and down movements of the jaw, allowing you to eat and talk.
TMJ syndrome is categorized by localized pain in the jaw joint, popping or clicking of the jaw, difficulty chewing, ear pain or aches, locking of the jaw, and sometimes, headaches. Causes include direct blows or injuries to the jaw or teeth, teeth grinding, improper posture, arthritis, and stress. Arthritis, in particular, can wear down the cartilage located between the bones. Further, time or injury can erode or move the disc in between the joint. This disc acts as a shock absorber and usually allows for fluid and easy movement of the jaw. When displaced or worn down, pain may occur.
Symptoms may go away on their own. However, your local healthcare provider will often recommend treatments such as a mouth guard, pain medications, physiotherapy, or a combination of treatments. In severe cases, surgery or other options may be explored.
How can physiotherapy help with TMJ syndrome?
Physiotherapy is a more conservative approach to tackling jaw issues and pain. At Aquafit Physiotherapy, our registered physiotherapists will conduct a thorough initial assessment including range of motion and strength testing. From the assessment, a diagnosis is made and the course of treatment planned. The treatment plan often consists of manual therapy techniques, modalities, education, and prescribed exercises.
Modalities, such as ultrasound and laser, may be used to increase the blood flow to the affected area. Exercises may, further, be prescribed to help stretch and strengthen the jaw joint. If the condition is due to postural deficits, your therapist will prescribe postural based exercises.
Manual therapy, dependant on the situation, may include techniques to release tight and aggravated muscles around the jaw joint, hands-on techniques to increase range and release scar tissue, and trigger point or massage therapy techniques applied to the jaw and neck to help reduce pain and restrictions. Our therapist may further recommend icing for 10-20 minutes at a time to decrease pain and inflammation, promoting healing of the area.
At Aquafit Physiotherapy, our team of dedicated therapists focuses on customizing our procedures and plans for each client. Call and book your appointment today to be rid of pain and get back to enjoying your life!