Temporomandibular joint disorder, commonly known as TMD, occurs when there is a problem with the temporomandibular joint (the jaw joints). Problems with the temporomandibular joint can result in jaw pain, joint noises and abnormal jaw movements. The good news is that TMD is a treatable disorder. Physio for jaw pain often shows positive results in the treatment of TMD.
What is the Temporomandibular Joint?
The temporomandibular joints (TMJ) connect the jaw to the skull. They are located on either side of the face, just in front of the ears. These important joints are responsible for movements such as chewing, speaking and facial expressions.
The TMJ performs two movements as it opens the mouth. The first is simply a hinge action that opens and closes the mouth as you would imagine. The second is a sliding motion called translation. This is when the jaw joints move forward allowing a great degree of freedom in the opening, as well as side to side actions.
The TMJ is one of the most used joints in the body and sometimes things can go wrong. Often this is due to overuse, jaw injury or inflammation.
What is the Temporomandibular Joint Disorder?
Just like other joints in the body, the TMJ can be injured. Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD) can cause many symptoms such as:
Jaw pain, particularly when eating
Abnormal jaw movement
Popping or clicking noises from the jaw
Ear pain may spread to the face
Locking of the jaw
There are a number of causes for TMD and occasionally there is no obvious cause. Some of the common reasons for TMD include: dental issues, joint wear and tear, trauma, jaw clenching and teeth grinding.
What Is the Best Treatment For TMD?
Treatment for TMD will depend on the diagnosis, the cause of TMJ dysfunction and how long it has been occurring. Generally, there are two types of TMJ disorders that require different treatments. TMJ closing disorders and TMJ opening disorders.
TMJ closing disorders: this is often due to teeth occlusion and teeth grinding. A dentist is usually involved in treating TMJ closing disorders but this can involve an experienced physio.
TMJ opening disorders: this type of TMJ disorder is due to a problem with the movement of opening and closing the jaw due to issues with muscle and joint control. TMJ opening disorders are often treated successfully with movement techniques such as joint mobilisation, strengthening, and movement retraining exercises, massage or dry needling. These treatments can be provided through qualified and experienced jaw physiotherapist.
What Jaw Exercises Can I Do For TMD?
There are various exercises to treat TMD that a physiotherapist may prescribe, some of these may include:
Muscle strengthening exercises
Jaw mobility exercises
Other management techniques during treatment may include: eating a soft diet, avoiding chewing gum, limiting large jaw movements such as yawning and maintaining good neck strength and posture.
Does Physio Help TMD?
Physio for jaw pain is an effective treatment with around 75% of patients resolving their condition within three months. Quite often physio for jaw pain provides positive results within a few weeks of beginning treatment, however, each patient will differ depending on the severity. For more information about physio for jaw pain, click here.