What is TMJ/TMD?
The temporomandibular joint, often abbreviated as the TMJ, is the joint that makes up your jaw and is a frequent area of incredible pain for many people. When this joint is painful, the condition is named temporomandibular joint dysfunction, or TMD for short.
Individuals suffering from TMJ pain often have difficulty eating, sleeping, talking, laughing, and more. This pain frequently results in people having to significantly adjust their diet and lifestyle because of the intensity of their symptoms. They’ll often also suffer from migraines and neck pain.
Causes of TMJ Pain
As with any painful area, multiple factors are usually associated with an individual developing TMD. Most commonly, neck and upper back stiffness alters the tension in the joints and muscles around the jaw, resulting in tension that can progress to intense pain and restricted jaw mobility.
These same restrictions also frequently cause neck pain and headaches, which many individuals with TMJ pain also suffer from.
How Can Physical Therapy Help With TMD Pain?
Some physical therapists specialize in treating TMD pain and can provide life-changing relief to these individuals.
Through various tests, TMJ specialist physical therapists can identify what factors might be contributing to TMJ pain, including:
- Neck or upper back stiffness
- Abnormal levels of muscle tension around the jaw
- Postural contributions
- TMJ joint stiffness or excessive motion
First Step: Accurate Assessment
Accurate assessment is a crucial aspect of developing effective TMJ plans in physical therapy. A thorough understanding of your unique TMJ condition forms the foundation for targeted and successful treatment.
During the assessment of your jaw pain, your therapist should consider your lifestyle, habits, stress levels, and any coexisting conditions that may influence your jaw health. It should be noted that these extraneous factors impact the symptom presentation and magnitude. This comprehensive understanding allows for a holistic approach that addresses the root causes of your TMJ issues, leading to more effective and long-lasting relief.
Next Step: Finding Relief with a Treatment Plan
Once contributors have been identified, a TMD specialist can game plan the best treatment protocols to relieve the pain. At Jackson County Physical Therapy, our therapists will use a wide range of treatment techniques for the above areas, including dry needling, myofascial decompression, spinal mobilization & manipulation, soft tissue release, and jaw joint mobilizations.
We’ll combine these various hands-on manual therapy techniques with simple-to-perform exercises that build upon relief performed in appointments. That way, you have the tools needed to give yourself relief from symptoms when your TMJ pain flares up during aggravating activities.
Typically, patients should notice an appreciable change in their symptoms within two sessions, with variable timelines for long-term improvement based on TMJ pain chronicity and the number of contributing factors.
Finally: Self Management of TMD/TMJ Pain with Exercise
While TMJ manual therapy and exercise provides valuable relief, the journey doesn’t end with your sessions. Empowering self-management techniques play a crucial role in maintaining and maximizing TMJ relief over the long term. You must take charge of your TMJ health and embrace self-empowerment for lasting relief.
Incorporating mindful movement practices can bring about positive changes in jaw function in a holistic approach with physical therapy. Practices like yoga, tai chi, body scans, and breath work emphasize body awareness, and relaxation. These practices can help you become more in tune with your body, reduce stress, and promote overall health, including jaw health.
Simple adjustments, such as avoiding excessive jaw clenching, chewing on one side, or biting on hard objects, can go a long way in reducing TMJ strain. If you know you are prone to one of these habits, set daily reminders to check in and recalibrate your behaviors. Be mindful of your habits and make conscious choices that support a healthier, pain-free jaw.
Find Relief from Your TMD & TMJ Pain
Maintaining open communication with your TMJ physical therapist is essential for long-term self-management success. Your PT can provide ongoing guidance, answer questions, and offer support even after your original sessions have ended. Consider scheduling periodic check-ins to discuss any changes, concerns, or progress you’ve experienced. Remember, your PT is your partner in this journey, and together, you can ensure ongoing TMJ relief and a thriving jaw.
When it comes to TMJ relief, personalized care through physical therapy is a game-changer. With personalized assessments, tailored treatment plans, unrushed sessions, and a collaborative approach, you can expect superior outcomes in your TMJ journey. Say goodbye to generic treatments that treat you like a number and embrace a therapeutic experience that puts your needs at the forefront.
Trust in the power of customized care and take the first step towards a pain-free and vibrant life by scheduling an appointment at Jackson County Physical Therapy today!