Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD) refers to a painful dysfunction of your jaw’s temporomandibular joint (TMJ). Responsible for opening and closing your jaw, the TMJ consists of the joint between the skull (temporal bone) and the lower jawbone (mandible). Certain conditions or events that may cause deterioration or malfunction in this joint may produce a wide variety of symptoms, ranging from pain in and around the joint while chewing, stiffness of the jaw muscle and pain that radiates into the face and neck. You may also hear a popping or clicking noise when you open or close your mouth. Frequently, the exact cause of TMD is unknown. However, several contributing factors such as occlusal abnormalities (upper and lower teeth touching), orthodontic treatments, stress and trauma, and pain of the upper neck can lead to a TMJ disorder. Pain can result from muscle tightness or trigger points, arthritis, trauma to the joint, joint laxity, cervical or thoracic pain and psycho social factors such as chronic stress, anxiety, depression or pain.
Your physical therapist will conduct a thorough examination that will include a review of your health history. This may include a questionnaire asking you to recall any past injuries, location, nature and behavior of your current symptoms and medical diagnoses that may impact your therapy program. You can expect a physical examination that includes evaluation of your strength, flexibility, and posture of the area surrounding the temporomandibular joint. In addition, you can expect a detailed examination of the muscles and joint itself.
Your plan of therapy will focus initially on acute pain relief and to manage inflammation. At the same time, your team will be working with you to restore flexibility through gentle exercises and treatment called manual therapy. Strengthening of weak muscles to restore muscle balance will be a portion of your treatment. To complete your program, we address the underlying changes of the foundation of your movement. This includes postural exercises, improving body mechanics during your daily activities, lifestyle changes and ongoing education to empower you to work on current issues and to help you prevent future occurrences and flare ups.