Treating temporomandibular disorder (TMD) with physical therapy is an effective method to relieve pain and discomfort. When you come to Four Pines Physical Therapy for your physical therapy evaluation and treatment, you can expect your therapist to analyze your jaw mobility and release muscle tension in the head and neck region. Our physical therapy team will perform a comprehensive evaluation of your TMD, neck, thoracic spine and shoulder girdle to determine the structures causing TMJ symptoms. Our patients are receiving immediate relief with physical therapy.
What are the temporomandibular joints (TMJ)?
Simply stated, the temporomandibular joints (TMJ) are the two joints that connect your jaw to your skull. More specifically, they are the joints that slide and rotate in front of each ear, and consist of the mandible (the lower jaw) and the temporal bone (the side and base of the skull). According to the American Dental Association (ADA), the TMJs are among the most complex joints in the body. These joints, along with several muscles, allow the mandible to move up and down, side to side, and forward and back. When the mandible and the joints are properly aligned, smooth muscle actions, such as chewing, talking, yawning, and swallowing, can take place. When these structures (muscles, ligaments, jaw bone, mandible, TMJ) are not aligned, nor synchronized in movement, several problems may occur.
What is TMD?
TMD is any disorder of the jaw muscles, temporomandibular joints, and/or the nerves associated with chronic facial pain. Any problem that prevents the complex system of muscles, bones, and joints from working together in harmony may result in temporomandibular disorder.
The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), classifies the categories of TMD by the following criteria:
- Myofascial pain, the most common form of TMD, which is discomfort or pain in the muscles that control jaw function and the neck and shoulder muscles.
- Internal derangement of the joint. This means a dislocated jaw or displaced disc, or injury to the condyle (the rounded edges of the jaw).
- Degenerative joint disease, such as osteoporosis or rheumatoid arthritis in the jaw joint.
What are the symptoms of TMD?
The following are the most common symptoms of TMD. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:
- Jaw discomfort or soreness (often most prevalent in the morning or late afternoon)
- Pain radiating behind the eyes, in the face, shoulder, neck, and/or back.
- Earaches or ringing in the ears (not caused by an infection of the inner ear canal)
- Clicking or popping of the jaw
- Locking of the jaw
- Mouth motions are limited
- Clenching or grinding of the teeth
- Sensitivity of the teeth without the presence of an oral health disease
- Numbness or tingling sensation in the fingers
- A change in the way the upper and lower teeth fit together