Did you know your jaw is the most frequently used joint in your body? Think about it. We use it when we eat and talk. We use it when we smile to express emotion and when we yawn. In performing all these activities, our jaws receive a workout. And just like any other workout, your jaw is at risk of injury.
If your jaw feels painful, if it locks when you eat, or you hear a clicking or grating noise when you open your mouth, you could have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ).
What is TMJ and what causes it?
If you place a finger over the joint in front of your ear and open your mouth wide, you will feel your temporomandibular joint move. It acts like a sliding hinge for your upper and lower jaw. If it doesn’t work well, if it clicks or if it is tender, you may have TMJ dysfunction.
TMJ symptoms can come from a variety of sources:
Head: forehead or temple pain, sinus headaches, shooting pain up the back of the head or painful head/scalp
Eyes: pain behind the eyes, bloodshot eyes, bulging eyes, sensitive to light
Mouth: inability to open smoothing, limited opening, jaw deviation, lockjaw
Ears: hissing/buzzing/ringing, decreased hearing, pain with no infection, vertigo or dizziness
Jaw: clicking/popping jaw joints, grating sound, painful cheek muscles, uncontrollable jaw/tongue movement
Neck: lack of mobility/stiffness, sore muscles, aching shoulders/back, arm/finger numbness or pain
Throat: difficulty swallowing, laryngitis, voice irregularities, frequent coughing, constant feeling of foreign object
Teeth: clenching/grinding at night, looseness/soreness of back teeth
There are also many different things that could cause TMJ dysfunction, including:
- Cross bite
- Stress/nervous habits
- Clenching/grinding of teeth
- Trauma e.g. road traffic accident
- Muscle imbalances
- Rheumatoid arthritis
Who can treat my aching jaw?
Your immediate thought may be a dentist. After all, they understand how the jaw functions. However, TMJ is a musculoskeletal condition and physiotherapists are leaders in managing musculoskeletal problems.
Physiotherapy treatment may include:
- Range of movement exercises
- Strengthening exercises
- Electrotherapy such as ultrasound or TENS
- Ergonomic changes and advice
- Stress management
In most cases TMJ dysfunction can be resolved. But if the cause of your joint pain is arthritis, for example, there may be long term effects.
The good news is, physiotherapy can help reduce the symptoms and an experienced physiotherapist can teach you how to manage the condition in the long term.
Don’t suffer in pain
New Age Physiotherapy has skilled physiotherapists on staff who are familiar with TMJ dysfunction and are experienced at assessing and treating the condition.
Make an appointment so we can help reduce your pain, restore your range of movement and return you to functional activities such as eating.