The temporomandibular joint, often abbreviated as (TMJ), is a hinge-like structure that connects the jawbone (mandible) to the human skull (temporal cranium bone). The joints are located on both sides of the jaw. TMJ is responsible for bodily functions such as chewing and speaking.

The temporomandibular joint also consists of three surfaces that operate on a unique mechanism. These surfaces are: articular tubercle, mandibular fossa and mandible head. The articular disk separates these three. The disk also plays to ensure that the bones never contact each other.

Causes of Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Pain

Temporomandibular jaw pain can be distressing. The pain can be a result of dysfunction or a disorder. Dysfunction of the TMJ can result from irritation of ligaments and muscles around the jaw bone, brought about by injury, damage or displacement. Depending on the severity, the dysfunction can be acute or chronic and can cause severe or mild pain for an individual.

Some risk factors that can increase the chances of TMJ disorder can include: long-term regular teeth grinding, arthritis, as well as an impact or blow on an already affected jaw.

Symptoms of TMJ

The main symptoms associated with temporomandibular joint (TMJ) pain include; headache, facial pain, chewing difficulty, pain around the ear, pain and tenderness around the neck region, and jaw pain.

Visit your healthcare provider, who will examine the following: the range of motion for how your mouth opens and closes. Press on both the upper and lower jaw to detect any form of discomfort. X-rays and CT scans also determine the damage or extent of irritation in severe cases. MRI helps individuals to identify the affected areas on the soft tissue.

Treatments for TMJ

The good news is that mild TMJ causes are manageable—simple strategies like self-care routines and open surgery. Pain relievers are administered in specific cases to aid in pain relief. A drug such as Aspirin, Ibuprofen, among others, is administered for mild pain. A higher dose of intense pain relievers is provided for patients with chronic stages of TMJ to deal with severe pain. Other treatment methods include:

Oral Appliance

For pain in the TMJ, oral appliances such as custom-designed splints fitted on the jaw help manage TMJ pain. The sling acts as a barrier to prevent the teeth from grinding. The applique helps the jaw to avoid unnecessary friction that can cause hindrance. Additionally, the use of splints for a prolonged period guarantees complete recovery even after the pain stops.

Physical therapy

Adjusting the posture of the jaw may regulate jaw pain. Resting helps minimize jaw movement when it comes to chewing, yawning, as well as speaking. Constant exercise can also delay progress and cause further injuries. Therapy can be accompanied by mediation to alleviate stress and to help individuals loosen and relax their jaw muscles.

Exercise the Jaw

Find ideal exercises from your health provider that will increase the mobility of the jaws. Exercises like stretching, strengthening, as well as relaxing the jaw help in relieving pain.

Avoid Bad Habits

Take note of daily habits that can trigger jaw dysfunction. Some activities that people tend to take for granted if prolonged further can result in TMJ. Therefore, avoid chewing on the inner side of lips and cheeks, grinding and clenching teeth, relaxing the jaw on the hand, and clenching the jaw muscle.

Courtesy of the advancement in neuroscience and physical therapy treatment, treating temporomandibular pain disorder is a viable option. In some cases, a pain psychologist will help ease the TMJ condition. For extreme cases, surgery can be done as a last resort.

If you need more information, or help, concerning TMJ jaw pain, visit Cawley Physical Therapy and Rehab. Contact us via email at or call 570-208-2787.