Temporomandibular joint dysfunction

TMJ Pain

It may begin with a dull ache or a clicking of the jaw while chewing, but you are sure that your TMJ pain is returning. While many adults experience jaw pain occasionally, chronic TMJ pain affects up to 15 percent of adults and affects women more often than men. Holland Physical Therapy explains what exactly TMJ pain is and how you can treat it.

What is it?

The temporomandibular joint attaches the jaw to the bottom of each side of the skull. It allows us to open and close our mouths in addition to letting us move our jaws from side-to-side. TMJ pain can occur when this joint is misaligned or the muscles around the cheek and jaw are inflamed. If you experience pain when you chew, earaches or stiff muscles, you may have temporomandibular joint dysfunction.

How do I get it?

There are several different causes of TMJ pain, but some of the more common reasons you may experience jaw pain include:

  • Teeth grinding — Whether you are awake or asleep, grinding your teeth puts incredible pressure on the jaw making it more likely to inflame the joint. The average person can generate well over 100 pounds of pressure with their molars.
  • Excessive gum chewing — Like any other repetitive motion injury, excessive gum chewing can cause inflammation in the jaw.
  • Stress — A natural reaction for many people in stressful situations it to clench the jaw. Constant stress can cause TMJ pain by having the jaw clenched for extended periods of time.
  • Injury to the teeth or jaw — Any acute injury such as a dislocation to the jaw can cause swelling and inflammation to the temporomandibular joint.

How do I treat it?

There are many ways to treat TMJ pain, and depending on the severity of the pain, the physical therapist may prescribe different treatment methods. Massage and trigger point therapy is effective in reducing tension in the neck and jaw. Exercises may be prescribed to strengthen muscles in the jaw. Joint mobilization techniques can be used to properly align the jaw.

The physical therapists of Holland Physical Therapy are experts in helping people treat their TMJ pain. Contact one of our friendly staff today to set up your initial appointment.