By Kelly Hall, DPT –
The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is a small joint that can cause BIG problems. The TMJ is the joint of the jaw where the upper temporal bone meets the lower jaw bone called the mandible. Between the two bones is an articular disc made of fibrocartilagenous tissue. Disorders of the temoromandibular joint are called temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD).
Small joint causes many, sometimes big, problems
Disorders of the TMJ can present with a multitude of clinical symptoms including: pain in the jaw, pain in the head, pain in the neck, headaches, dizziness, vertigo, earache or fullness, tinnitus (ringing in the ear), joint noise (cracking or popping), and toothache. This can lead to difficulty with eating, talking and performing other activities of daily living. Some patients even experience locking of the jaw, making it difficult to open or close their mouth.
Factors that increase your chances of developing TMD
There are many risk factors that increase your chances of being affected with TMD. These risk factors can include: a direct blow to the head, neck or jaw, whiplash injury, or injury during dental work. Personal habits that increase your risk for TMD include bruxing (grinding your teeth), biting nails, clenching jaw, sucking on cheeks, biting lips, eating hard or chewy foods. These repetitive movements can cause microtrauma to the soft tissue and bones of the jaw. Over time these microtraumas can result in pain, spasm, and altered jaw mechanics.
Poor posture causes problems but can be treated
In addition, a large majority of patients with TMD suffer from postural disorders. Patients with TMD demonstrate a more forward headed posture than subjects without TMD; in fact it is believed that 85% of patients hold a forward-headed posture. This is a condition that your physical therapist is uniquely qualified to treat and resolve for you.
It is estimated that 35 million individuals in the United States of America suffer from TMD, and women are affected three times more than men. As many as 65-85% of the population will suffer from at least one sign of TMD at some time in their life, but only 25% of those affected seek treatment.
Noninvasive treatment is successful
The good news is that clinical research indicates that the majority of TMD patients are treated successfully with conservative treatment, such as physical therapy, without the need for invasive measures such as surgery. Your physical therapist will be able to educate you on things you can do to reduce your TMD, such as eating soft foods, avoiding extreme jaw motions (wide yawning), and utilizing ice or heat packs. They can utilize gentle manual therapy and clinic modalities to decrease your pain and discomfort. In addition they can teach you jaw and postural exercises to prevent your TMD from recurring. Put an end to your pain and REQUEST to be seen by a physical therapist today!
Call the office nearest you for a free consultation to learn how physical therapy may help you.
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701 Manatee Avenue West, #103
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