How to Treat TMJ

A woman holding her jaw in painThe 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 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 plays to ensure that the bones never contact each other. 

If these bones make contact due to TMJ, it can cause severe jaw pain and headaches. Fortunately, if you suffer from TMJ jaw pain, there are a number of treatment options available at Cawley Physical Therapy.

Causes of Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Pain

Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) pain can be distressing. The jaw pain can be a result of dysfunction or a disorder, which complicates how to treat TMJ depending on the severity of the condition.

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, and an impact or blow on an already affected jaw.

Symptoms of TMJ

The main symptoms associated with TMJ include:

  • Headache
  • Facial pain
  • Chewing difficulty
  • Pain around the ear
  • Pain and tenderness around the neck region
  • Jaw pain. 

Visit your healthcare provider, who will examine the following: the range of motion for how your mouth opens and closes. Once they know more, they will show you how to treat TMJ.

Press on both the upper and lower jaw to detect any form of discomfort. X-rays and CT scans are done to determine the damage or extent of irritation in severe cases. MRI helps individuals to identify the affected areas on the soft tissue.

A woman experiences jaw pain and headache

Treatments for TMJ

The good news is that mild TMJ causes are manageable—simple strategies like self-care routines and open surgery. You can also help to manage your pain by strengthening your jaw with several TMJ pain relief exercises.

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 are fitted on the jaw to provide upper and lower teeth to 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. The splints are used for a prolonged period to guarantee complete recovery even after the pain stops.

Physical Therapy

Professionals in the field of physical therapy for TMJ can be a helpful resource for you. Jaw pain is regulated by adjusting the posture of the jaw. Resting helps minimize jaw movement when it comes to chewing, yawning, and speaking. 

Constant exercise can delay progress and cause further injuries. Therapy can be accompanied by meditation 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, and 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 is recommended to help ease the TMJ condition, and in some extreme cases, surgery can be done as a last resort.

Get Help for TMJ Today

If you or a loved one are suffering from TMJ jaw pain, Cawley Physical Therapy can help. Our expert physical therapists will work with you to develop a customized treatment plan to meet your needs.

To learn more about how to treat TMJ, contact Cawley Physical Therapy today. We’re looking forward to hearing from you!