What are TMJ Disorders and how can they be treated?

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Have you ever experienced TMJ pain? How do you treat it?

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In this post we’ll talk about what TMJ disorders are and how we would treat it depending on the injury, whether it being with exercises, joint mobilization techniques, or other modalities.

What is TMJ dysfunction and how does it occur?

TMJ stands for temporomandibular joint, where your jaw bone attaches to the rest of your skull. Additionally, ligaments, tendons, and muscles surround the joint to provide support, strength, and flexibility. A TMJ dysfunction could start suddenly, or it could start gradually and progressively get worse over time. The pain can also range from mild to severe. TMJ is surprisingly common and can result from a strain to the muscles or trouble with the joint movement itself. There are several potential causes of TMJ dysfunction. Some examples of mechanism of injury may be:

  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Stress 
  • Prolonged postures

Types of TMJ dysfunction: 

  • Myofascial pain syndromes 
  • Hypomobility
  • Anterior disc displacement 
  • Hypermobility 

Symptoms

Here is a list of symptoms you may have with TMJ dysfunction:

  • Pain in jaw
  • Pain when eating, yawning, and/or speaking 
  • Clicking sensation when opening or closing the mouth
  • Muscle tenderness around jaw and mouth areas 
  • Inability to open mouth fully 
  • Stiffness
  • Pain in ears, teeth, behind eyes, throughout head 
  • Headaches 

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How do you treat TMJ?

Treatment for TMJ disorders depends on the severity and type of the injury. There are some self-care measures that can help, but it also a good idea to see a physiotherapist for a formal assessment and treatment plan. Just like any other joint, the TMJ can benefit from stretching, strengthening, and other exercises. Your physiotherapist will likely use a variety of techniques to treat TMJ dysfunction such as:

  • Range of motion exercises
  • Strengthening exercises 
  • Joint mobilization techniques 
  • Soft tissue release techniques 

Exercises to try:

Controlled Opening: Start in a comfortable seated position. Press your tongue to the roof of your mouth. Begin the exercise by slowly opening your mouth, while keeping your tongue in the same starting position. Open your mouth as wide as you are able, and then return to the starting position. 

Deep Neck Flexor: Start by lying on your back, with a pillow underneath your head for comfort. From this position, perform a light chin tuck by bringing your chin closer to your chest - but not all the way. Think about working the deep muscles in your neck rather than the big muscles in the front. Hold this position for 2-3 seconds, and repeat. 

Self Masseter Release: Start in a comfortable seated or lying position on your back. Using your fingers, feel along the side of your jaw bone, feeling the muscle overtop for tender spots. Generally, this will be felt slightly below and in front of the ear, as shown in photo below. Once found, apply pressure to this area with your fingertips. While applying pressure, slowly open and close your mouth. This will likely be uncomfortable during the movement, but should improve symptoms afterwards.

Isometric Jaw Strengthening: Start in a comfortable seated position. Open your mouth slightly, but not to full opening. From this position, bring your hand towards your jaw and apply pressure on one side, as if you are going to push your jaw to one side. Then, match your resistance with your jaw muscles to create an isometric contraction. Hold for 5 seconds, then release, and repeat. 

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If you need further information on on TMJ disorders or have any other concerns, please send us an email at info@yeghip.com or visit our website here

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