Have you ever heard someone say “I have TMJ”? Actually, we all have two.
The temporomandibular joints (TMJ) are the connection between your lower jaw bone (mandible) and a bone on the side of our skull on either side called the temporal bone. There is a disc between this joint whose purpose is to support, protect, and lubricate the joint.
The TMJ can cause pain with chewing, talking or even at rest when these structures get inflamed or irritated and we call this temporomandibular dysfunction (TMD). Physical therapists often work with dentists to treat the cause of dysfunction, which can lead to headaches, and pain in the face, neck, teeth, even the eye or ear.
TMD can be caused by tight or weak muscles, poor posture, arthritis, malalignment of teeth, or asymmetry of the surrounding muscles. A physical therapist can assess the muscles of the neck, jaw and even shoulders that can be contributing to pain and pressure, as well as mobility of the jaw and neck.
Paying attention to posture habits can also go a long way in alleviating pressure on the TMJ. Resting position of the jaw should be the tongue resting on the roof of your mouth, teeth slightly apart, lips slightly closed. Physical therapists may also suggest exercises or stretches to improve alignment and mobility of the joint, as well as use of modalities such as ultrasound to calm the inflammation.
A referral to a dentist or orthodontist is also necessary in some cases to treat other causes of TMD. If you are having pain in your jaw with chewing, talking, or other activities, our therapists at OSPTI can assess whether physical therapy might be a good option for treatment. We strive to meet your goals of decreasing pain and improving your function with daily activities.