Patients frequently seek physical therapy to address the pain associated with Temporomandibular Joint Disorder, also known as TMD. This condition results from an improper functioning of the jaw resulting in pain and headaches. Since the issue stems from a malfunctioning in the temporomandibular joint, this disorder is interchangeably referred to as TMJ. For the purposes of this article, TMD will be referred to as TMJ going forward.
Most commonly, patients seek physical therapy due to the unpleasant symptom of recurrent headaches, at which point it is discovered that the underlying cause of the pain is a result of TMJ. Thus, physical therapy for TMJ includes specialized techniques to help restore the mobility and functioning of the temporomandibular joint, subsequently relieving the associated issues of pain. That way you receive treatment specialized to your body and condition, so more than just symptoms are addressed, but rather the root cause of your pain. Get back to living life to the fullest with physical therapy for TMJ!
Understanding What TMJ Is
In order to understand the benefits of TMJ therapy and how it works, it will be important to first gain a fuller understanding of what TMJ is. Simply put, the joint that connects your jaw to your skull is called the temporomandibular joint and is responsible for actions like chewing, speaking, opening/closing your mouth, and yawning. Thus, when this area quits functioning properly due to cartilage deterioration or the erosion/misalignment of the disk within the joint, the resulting symptoms will be painful and problematic to your everyday life. This is why TMJ physical therapy is so important in the restoration of your quality of life and functioning.
What Are the Symptoms of TMJ?
If you notice any of the symptoms that will be discussed below, it is possible you are suffering from TMJ and could benefit from physical therapy. However, the most accurate way to determine what is causing your symptoms is to be fully evaluated by a professional, so your treatment plan is tailored to your specific needs and the true source of your discomfort can be determined, targeted, and mitigated. With this in mind, if you notice an uptick in headaches, facial swelling, the inability to fully open your mouth, clicking in your jaw, pain in your jaw, locking jaw, or painful bite, you should see a professional immediately as it is likely you are suffering from TMJ.
TMJ Physical Therapy: What to Expect During Your Initial Session
The first step when seeking physical therapy for TMJ is to schedule an initial session with a physical therapist knowledgeable about TMJ treatment. During this session he or she will discuss your current medical history, any previous treatments or injuries, and what type of treatment plan would best suit your needs. The therapist will also ask about your expectations for recovery. In addition, a thorough examination will be performed on your mouth and jaw to determine if there are any other contributing factors to your pain besides TMJ. Once all these questions have been answered, the therapist can then create a customized treatment plan specific to your unique situation.
For example, some patients may benefit from exercises designed to strengthen muscles around the jaw, while others may need to focus on improving range of motion. Also, depending on your age, gender, and overall health, certain types of exercise may be better suited for you than others.
Once your treatment plan has been created, the next step is to begin working towards achieving your goals. The goal of physical therapy is to provide you with the most effective treatment possible, that is tailored specifically to your needs. As such, each patient’s treatment is different. Some patients may only need a single session each week, while others may require multiple visits per week. It is important to remember that every person responds differently to treatment and therefore no two patients are alike.
The right team of professionals will work together to ensure that you get the most out of your time spent in therapy. Your physical therapist will make sure you understand how your treatment works, why it is necessary, and how long it will take to achieve success. Additionally, you will be provided with a written treatment plan outlining exactly what you should expect during the recovery process, so you are fully equipped to aid in your own healing.
What Types of Treatments May Be Used to Treat TMJ?
The following are some examples of things you might experience during your TMJ physical therapy sessions.
- Range Of Motion Exercises: These involve stretching and strengthening movements to improve movement patterns.
- Exercises To Heal TMJ: These include different stretches to target the stabilization of the jaw, the use of the tongue, and other relevant stretches.
- Breathing Exercises: These teach you how to breathe properly to reduce stress and tension.
- Stability Exercises: These exercises are targeted to help with the neck and shoulders stability.
In addition to exercise, some specific techniques are effectively used in the treatment of TMJ. Continue reading below to learn more about these techniques.
- Trigger Point Dry Needling: This involves using small needles to stimulate trigger points within the body. Trigger points are areas where the muscles become tense and cause pain. By stimulating these trigger points, the muscles relax, and the pain goes away.
-Ultrasound: Ultrasounds are sound waves that produce vibrations within tissues. The purpose of ultrasound is to stimulate soft tissue growth and repair.
-Home Exercise Program: A home exercise program provides instructions on how to perform simple exercises at home to continue the process of healing outside of the physical therapy office. These exercises may be done while watching television, reading, or doing housework.
-Myofascial Release: Myofascial release is a form of manual therapy that uses gentle pressure to break up adhesions (tissues that have formed around joints) and loosen tight muscle fibers.
Don't Live with Pain Any Longer
If you are suffering from pain and discomfort associated with TMJ, don't go another day without seeing a physical therapist. With the right treatment, your functioning and pain can be improved or eliminated entirely. Get your life back without taking strong drugs or dealing with invasive surgeries. Your health impacts every part of your life. Take back your quality of life with TMJ physical therapy!