Newsletter - Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMD)

TMJ refers to the temporomandibular joints on either side of the jaw. Often, TMD (temporomandibular disorders), can lead to serious headaches or acute neck, ear, jaw joint and cheek pain. Depending on the causes of TMD and the symptoms you are exhibiting, an experienced physical therapist along with your Dentist can provide the treatment you need to reduce your discomfort.

What Are the Symptoms of TMD?

The symptoms associated with TMD will vary from person to person, depending on the unique causes of their discomfort. TMD symptoms can include the following:

  • Ear Pain
  • Sore Jaw Muscles
  • Temple/Cheek Pain
  • Jaw popping/clicking
  • Locking of the Jaw
  • Opening the Mouth Fully
  • Frequent Head/Neck Aches

The pain may be sharp and searing, occurring each time you swallow, yawn, talk, or chew, or it may be dull and constant. It hurts over the joint, immediately in front of the ear, but pain can also radiate elsewhere. It often causes spasms in the adjacent muscles that are attached to the bones of the skull, face, and jaws. Then, pain can be felt at the side of the head (the temple), the cheek, the lower jaw, and the teeth.

What Are the Causes of TMD?

Cartilage wear and tear can be one of the causes of TMD. The cartilage disks that pad the TMJ become worn or displaced, causing painful grinding of the jawbone. A popping and cracking noises that occurs when the jaw is opened or closed may also indicate the possibility of a problem, and may negatively affect movement of the jaw, and cause a strain of the musculature of the jaw, face, and neck.

Clenching and Grinding
Habitual clenching and grinding of the teeth places extreme pressure and strain on the joints and is one of the most common causes of TMD. The added stress on the jaw joint can cause wear and tear of the cartilage disks, and may even cause the jaw joint to become dislocated.

Misaligned Bite
If the bite of the upper and lower teeth is not aligned properly, everyday jaw movement like chewing can take a toll on the TMJ and strain the surrounding musculature.

Arthritis can cause uncomfortable inflammation of the TMJ and may also result in swelling in the adjoining tissues, ligaments and muscles. Those with arthritis may experience difficulty opening and closing their mouth, as well as other painful TMD symptoms.

Physical Therapy for TMD

There are many treatments for TMD. After a thorough and complete examination and profile from your dentist and physical therapist, they can develop a proper treatment plan to help manage TMD and its resulting symptoms. Some of the physical therapy treatments for TMD include:

  • Manual therapy (including various massage techniques)
  • Stretching
  • Exercises
  • Activity modification
  • Neuromuscular re-education

To learn more on how we can help you with the symptoms and discomfort of TMD for you or a family member, please give one of our offices a call today to set up an appointment.