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Physical Therapy for TMJ – Information, Exercises, and More

Have you been experiencing pain and discomfort while yawning or eating certain foods?

Maybe you’ve dealt with your jaw popping for years and have been diagnosed with temporomandibular joint disorder and are looking for relief.

You’re not alone.

In fact, as many as 10 million Americans are dealing with TMJ disorder.

In this guide, we’re discussing everything you need to know about TMJ disorder and how you can get relief.

What is TMJ?

Your temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is the joint that connects your lower jaw to your skull. This joint allows you to open and close your mouth — giving you the capability to eat and speak.

Temporomandibular joint disorder is the term used to describe the pain and compromised movement of your jaw joint as well as the surrounding muscles.

What Causes TMJ?

For many, it is unknown what actually causes TMJ disorder, but there are a number of things that can contribute to the disorder, including:

Unfortunately, there’s no widely known test to diagnose the disorder, but your doctor may look at a number of factors to determine if you have TMJ disorder.

TMJ Symptoms

Symptoms of TMJ disorder differ based on the severity of the disorder and the cause of the condition.

The most common symptom is pain in your jaw and the muscles that surround it, but other symptoms associated with the disorder are:

  • Pain and stiffness in the face and neck
  • Stiffness in your jaw muscles
  • Limited movement of your jaw
  • Locking of your jaw
  • Clicking or popping around the area where your TMJ is located when opening and closing your mouth
  • Malocclusion of the teeth
  • Aching in and around your ear
  • Difficulty or pain when chewing

Facial pain can be an indicator of many different things, so it is important that you talk with your doctor to make sure that there are no other underlying issues related to your discomforts — like sinus infections or facial neuralgias.

TMJ Treatment

In some cases of TMJ disorder, your symptoms go away without any treatment, but if your symptoms are persistent, your doctor may recommend a number of different treatments.

Non-Surgical TMJ Treatment

Non-surgical treatments are a common route many doctors will recommend to patients suffering from TMJ disorder.

Examples of these treatments include:

  • Over-the-counter pain medicationsor prescription-strength ibuprofen depending on the severity
  • Muscle relaxersused to relieve pain caused by muscle spasms of the jaw
  • Mouthguards or oral splintsyou may benefit from wearing a device inserted over your teeth
  • Physical therapy — a specialist can help with TMJ physical therapy exercises and treatment plans
  • Injections — although considered a non-surgical treatment, Botox and Corticosteroid injections have been said to help patients suffering TMJ disorder symptoms
  • Avoiding overuse of the jaw — Eating soft foods, cutting your food into smaller pieces and avoiding chewy foods or gum may help decrease the symptoms of TMJ disorder

Surgical Treatment

If conventional, non-surgical treatments are not helping your TMJ disorder, your physician may recommend a surgical procedure such as:

  • Arthrocentesis — the removal of fluid from the TMJ joint to get rid of any debris causing pain and inflammation.
  • TMJ arthroscopy — during this procedure a small tube is placed into the joint space, followed by an arthroscope, and then small surgical tools are used for the surgery.
  • Open-joint surgery — this surgery is typically performed in cases of TMJ disorder that involve a structural problem of the joint. During this procedure, your physician may repair or completely replace the joint.

TMJ Physical Therapy – Will PT Help?

Physical therapy is one of the most commonly recommended treatment options for TMJ disorder.

TMJ physical therapy will include a treatment plan that best suits your unique symptoms — whether that be through TMJ physical therapy exercises, massage, or learning what lifestyle changes you can make.

Physical therapy may be mixed with other non-surgical treatments or as rehab after a TMJ disorder surgery.

Best TMJ Exercises

The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) recommends a number of exercises commonly used to treat TMJ disorder.

Below we discuss a few of the most commonly recommended TMJ exercises.

In order to treat your specific symptoms, it’s vital that you talk with your Doctor of Physical Therapy before starting any at-home treatment plans.

Jaw Strengthening Exercises

Many jaw strengthening exercises involve opening and closing your mouth while placing resistance on your chin.

It is recommended that you do not perform strengthening exercises during a TMJ disorder flare-up as it can make the pain and discomfort worse.

Jaw Stretching Exercises

To prevent TMJ disorder symptoms from returning, or to keep symptoms at bay, gently stretching your jaw can help.

The focus of most TMJ stretches is to move the jaw on its own as much as possible without causing pain or discomfort.

Relaxation Exercises

If your TMJ disorder is triggered by stress, relaxation exercises may be a great way to relieve the symptoms of the disorder.

For example, breathing exercises help reduce tension in the jaw muscles.

How In Motion O.C. Can Help With TMJ

Have you been Googling “TMJ physical therapy near me” and haven’t found the help you’ve been searching for?

Look no further. In Motion O.C. is here to help you find relief.

We’ve helped dozens of patients going through the same pain and discomfort you are experiencing. And you shouldn’t have to deal with it any longer.

After an initial consultation, our physical therapists can help you develop a treatment plan and get you on the road to recovery.

*This information about TMJ physical therapy was reviewed by Dr Natalie Thomas, PT, DPT. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us here.

Ready to reduce your TMJ disorder symptoms? Schedule a free consultation with us today.

In Motion O.C.