If it hurts to talk, chew, or yawn, your temporomandibular joint (TMJ) could be the culprit. TMJ is the hinge that connects your jaw bone to your skull and allows you to open and close your mouth. Each time you talk, chew and yawn, your TMJ is at work. When this joint malfunctions, you may feel pain, stiffness, and ‘clicking’ or ‘popping’ sensations with these movements.
Problems in the joint are called temporomandibular disorders (TMD) and have many causes, including jaw injuries (whether whiplash from a car accident or a direct blow), arthritis, teeth grinding while sleeping, and ill-fitting dentures. Stress can also be a contributing factor for many people.
TMJ treatment options
A variety of treatment approaches can be used to restore normal movement patterns in the jaw and relieve pain or discomfort. After examining the joint and understanding the causes of your TMD, the physiotherapists at Summit Physiotherapy will create a treatment plan that may include the following techniques:
- Joint mobilization: Manually moving the joint in specific directions can stretch scar tissue and release muscle and soft tissue tension, improving range of motion.
- Massage: Massage therapy can reduce overall muscle tension in the body, especially in the jaw, neck, shoulders, and upper back.
- Craniosacral therapy: This technique is performed by our massage therapists can also be used to reduce the tension in the tissues affecting the jaw and restore normal TMJ mobility. Understand more about how craniosacral therapy can help treat your TMJ in our blog post.
- Myofascial release: This hands-on technique is performed by physiotherapists and targets the fascia, connective tissue wrapping around muscle, bone, and other structures within the body.
- Dry needling: Some patients find pain relief from traditional acupuncture treatments or intramuscular stimulation (IMS), in which acupuncture needles are placed directly in any muscles causing pain or dysfunction.
- Home exercises: Our well-trained physiotherapists can prescribe exercises designed to relax stiff muscles, improve range of motion, and teach you to move the joint properly.
- TENS: Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) treatments apply a mild electrical current to the skin above the jaw, interrupting the body’s pain signals and increasing much-needed blood flow.
- Ultrasound: Directing high-frequency sound waves at the joint can reduce pain and swelling, and improve circulation.
- Neck/upper back assessment: Because the function of the TMJ and spine are closely linked, our physiotherapists will assess the neck and upper back to ensure clients are treated for any related issues.
All of these approaches can be offered as complements to other medical techniques, including splints (dental devices that can improve joint movement) and medications (like nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and muscle relaxants).
Book an appointment with us today to find out which treatments would best fit your needs.