If you’re suffering from jaw pain and it’s affecting your ability to do normal, daily activities like chewing, yawning or talking, what do you do about it?

Many people with jaw pain feel helpless as they are unaware of treatments that can help with this issue. Luckily, physiotherapy can help!  Below are some basics to understanding this problem and how physiotherapy can alleviate your pain.

TEMPOROMANDIBULAR JOINT (TMJ) PAIN

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Your temporomandibular joint (or TMJ) is your jaw joint and it sits right in front of your ear. It is a hinge joint that connects your jaw to your temporal bone (your skull). This allows your jaw to open/close and move side-to-side enabling you to talk, yawn, chew and more. When there is a problem with this joint you may experience the following:

 

 

SYMPTOMS

  • Facial pain (pain is typically at the side of your face in front of your ear)
  • Clicking or grinding sounds when opening/closing your mouth
  • Catching/locking of your jaw with opening/closing
  • Deviations (movements to the side) of your jaw with opening/closing
  • Inability to fully open or close your jaw
  • Inability or pain during chewing especially hard food
  • Pain in your neck, shoulders or teeth
  • Dizziness
  • Ringing in your ears

CAUSES

  • Poor posture and/or muscle tension/limited mobility of your neck which all affect the mechanics of jaw movement.
  • Dental work when you have been sedated and your jaw has been held open for a long time.
  • Muscle tension in your jaw/facial muscles due to grinding your teeth at night.

TREATMENT

  • There are some simple changes to your daily activities that can have an impact on your TMJ pain such as: improving your posture; holding your jaw in a relaxed position during the day; avoiding hard candies/food/gum; and applying ice to the joint to numb the pain
  • See your dentist to determine if you grind your teeth and may need to wear a night guard or if there are issues with your bite in general
  • See a physiotherapist who specializes in this condition to have an assessment and be prescribed individualized exercises for your problem

HOW CAN PHYSIOTHERAPY HELP?

  • A physiotherapist will assess you and attempt to determine the contributing factors for your pain (i.e. posture, neck mobility/strength, jaw mobility, coordination and strength, muscle tension in neck/shoulders/jaw)
  • Based on this assessment, they will discuss with you what is causing your pain and develop an individualized home exercise program for you to address your contributing factors
  • Treatments at the clinic may involve ultrasound to help with inflammation and pain, manual therapy to the neck and jaw to improve mobility, stretches or trigger point release of tight muscles, and/or acupuncture

Conditions/Syndromes a Physiotherapist can treat related to TMJ include:

  • Myofascial pain syndrome involving muscles of the face
  • Internal derangements of the TMJ (disc displacement)
  • Osteoarthritis of the TMJ
  • Headaches
  • Neck/Shoulder pain
  • Post surgical
  • Post fracture

Cornerstone Physiotherapy’s North York clinic has physiotherapists who are experienced in treating disorders of the TMJ. Click here to contact our physiotherapy clinic and get started.