My name is Kristyn and I am a physiotherapist. This is my VERY FIRST blog post ever so here we go…
Let’s talk about something that I have treated frequently over the past few years– the TMJ. “What is the TMJ” you ask? TMJ stands for temporomandibular joint. They are your two jaw joints and you can feel them just in front of your ear openings while you open and close your mouth. When I tell people that it is a part of the body that I treat they are often surprised that a physiotherapist can treat the jaw and they often tell me that they currently have issues or have had issues in the past with their TMJs.
Let’s talk about common issues or symptoms associated with the jaw. Most commonly, people come to me with jaw pain that is causing headaches and limiting opening. Frequently their jaw swings to one side and can click with either opening or closing. They often tell me that they clench or grind at night, and generally hold tension in their jaw. They also say that it feels like their teeth aren’t fitting together and it feels like their bite is “off”. Sometimes they tell me that they have ringing in their ears as well. And sometimes their dentist notices signs of wear in the teeth or gums due to clenching and grinding and sends them my way when they can’t keep their mouth open for dental procedures.
All of these things are limiting in life when someone with jaw issues is having pain from headaches due to muscular tension or imbalance, having discomfort when taking a large bite of food or when they are chewing something chewy like a steak, when their ears are ringing or they are having ear pain related to the jaw, or if they are having pain while talking, singing, or playing an instrument.
Some of the common causes of TMJ issues include:
· Tension due to clenching, grinding, or holding tension during the day or the night
· Hyper or hypomobility (extra movement or reduced movement) of one or both joints.
· Joint issues due to degeneration or disc entrapment/derangement
· Trauma to the jaw
People often discuss their jaw issues with their dentist, who is able to offer them the option of a mouthguard to protect the teeth (yes, I have seen several people who have cracked their own teeth due to clenching and grinding). A mouthguard is a plastic device that is designed to protect the teeth from wear caused by clenching and grinding at night, during the day or with impact sports. It also protects the TMJs from compression. I enjoy working with dentists to assist mutual clients with the recovery of their jaw health. I also screen my clients to ensure that they are a good candidate for physiotherapy and I will refer back to a dentist or physician if that is what is required.
Something that may surprise you is that the jaw joints and their function are closely connected with the neck! Neck issues can result in weakening or reduced coordination of the jaw muscles which can result in dysfunction. The neck provides the core foundation on which the jaw moves. Therefore, when I am treating someone’s jaw, I almost always have a look at neck mobility and function. This could be a whole other blog topic…
If you are experiencing issues with your jaw joints we would love to help you with your recovery and restoration of jaw control and mobility. If you have any questions about how you may benefit from physiotherapy for your jaw, do not hesitate to give me a call.
- Kristyn, PT
· Wright EF, North SL. Management and Treatment of Temporomandibular Disorders: A Clinical Perspective. J Man Manip Ther. 2009; 17(4): 247–254.
· Mota LAA et al. Signs and Symptoms Associated to Otalgia in Temporomandibular Disorder. International Archines of Otorhinolaryngology. 2007;11(4):411-415.
· Rocabado M, Johnston Jr. BE, Blakney MG. Physical Therapy and Dentistry: An Overview. Journal of Craniomandibular Practice. 1982;1(1)46-49.