The Role of Physical Therapy in TMJ Disorder Treatment: Exercises and Techniques to Try
TMJ disorder is a condition which affects the jaw joint and can cause pain, discomfort, and difficulty chewing, speaking, and performing other daily activities. Physical therapy can aid in treating TMJ disorder by increasing the range of motion, decreasing pain, and restoring joint function.
Understanding TMJ Disorder
TMJ disorder, also known as a temporomandibular joint disorder, affects the joint that connects the jawbone to the skull. The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) allows your jaw to move up and down, and forward and backward, and side to side. When this joint isn’t working properly, it can cause various symptoms and discomfort.
TMJ disorder symptoms can vary from person to person, but they commonly include the following:
- Tenderness or pain in the jaw, face, neck, or shoulders
- Having trouble opening or closing your mouth
- When opening or closing the mouth, you may hear clicking or popping sounds.
- Hearing loss or ringing in the ears
- The exact cause of TMJ disorder is frequently unknown, but it is thought
The exact cause of TMJ disorder is frequently unknown, but it is thought to be related to several factors, including:
- Dental or jaw misalignment
- Jaw or facial injuries
- Arthritis Bruxism (teeth grinding or clenching)
- Tension and stress
Physical Therapy for TMJ Disorder
Physical therapy can help to improve ones range of motion, and restore function to the jaw joint, making it an excellent treatment option for TMJ disorder. Physical therapists or a TMJ treatment dentist near you can treat TMJ disorder with a variety of techniques, including:
Specific exercises can help to strengthen the muscles surrounding the jaw joint and improve the range of motion. They include:
- Soft tissue mobilization and massage, for example, can help to reduce pain and increase mobility in the jaw joint.
- Ultrasound therapy: This therapy employs high-frequency sound waves to promote healing and reduce joint inflammation.
- Electrical stimulation: This technique reduces pain by stimulating the muscles around the jaw joint with electrical impulses.
- Applying heat or cold to the joint can help reduce pain and inflammation.
Physical therapists and dentists near you may also work with you to develop a personal treatment plan which includes lifestyle changes and changes to daily habits that may contribute to the development or exacerbation of TMJ disorder symptoms.
Exercises for TMJ Disorder used at Soni Smiles General and Implant Dentistry
Several exercises can help you manage the symptoms of TMJ disorder. Here are a couple of examples used at our Dental Office In Clearwater, FL:
- Jaw-opening exercise. Open your mouth slowly and as widely as possible, then hold the position for a few seconds before slowly closing it. Ten times through this exercise.
- Side-to-Side Jaw Movement Exercise: Slowly move your jaw to one side and hold it there for a few seconds, then move it to the other side and hold it there for a few seconds. Repeat this exercise on each side ten times.
- Chin tuck exercise: Standing or sitting up straight, gently tuck your chin in towards your neck. Hold for some seconds before releasing this position. Ten times through this exercise.
- Exercise for Resisted Jaw Closing: Place your thumb under your chin and your index finger on the bottom of your jaw for the resisted jaw closing exercise. Gently press your chin down, resisting the movement with your fingers. Hold for a few seconds before releasing in this position. Ten times through this exercise.
Other Techniques for TMJ Disorder
Other techniques, besides physical therapy exercises, can aid in managing TMJ disorder symptoms. Here are some examples recommended while undergoing a TMJ Treatment in Clearwater, FL.
- Relaxation techniques: Because stress and tension can exacerbate TMJ disorder symptoms, practicing relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, or yoga may benefit symptom management.
- Hot and cold therapy: Using heat or cold to relieve pain and inflammation in the jaw area. Heat can be applied with a warm compress or a hot water bottle, while cold can be applied with a cold pack or ice wrapped in a towel.
- Bite guards or splints: These are custom-made by a dentist or orthodontist to fit over your teeth and help to reduce clenching or grinding, which can exacerbate TMJ disorder symptoms.
- Jaw-stretching devices: These aid in stretching the jaw muscles and increasing the range of motion.