What is the TMJ?

The temporomandibular joint or TMJ, is the joint that joins your jaw bone to the rest of your skull. You can feel it just in front of your ear hole. It can be painful for many reasons including poor posture, bad habits, growth disorder or injury and inflammation.

What are the signs and symptoms of dysfunction?

  • Pain in the jaw joint or facial muscles;
  • Clicking / grinding / locking in the jaw;
  • Headaches and dizziness;
  • Difficulty opening and closing the mouth;
  • Pain when chewing on hard food or yawning.

What causes TMJ pain?

There is normally a combination of causes which can lead to pain or symptoms:

  • Overactivity of the jaw muscles – sometimes from continuous grinding of the teeth;
  • Trauma – a blow to either the joint or the jaw bone;
  • Arthritis;
  • Stiffness or dysfunction in the neck;
  • Sensitivity to stress-related pain.

What are the aims of physiotherapy?

  • To reduce pain (tecartherapy, mobilisation and manipulation);
  • To minimise stiffness;
  • To restore function and movement;
  • To teach management strategies.

Advice

  • Massage the muscles around the joint;
  • Use heat or ice for 10 minutes to reduce pain;
  • Discuss pain relief with your doctor;
  • Exercise your jaw regularly with guidance from your physiotherapist;
  • Consult your dentist to check if you are grinding your teeth at night;
  • Cut up food into smaller pieces.

Avoid

  • Hard, crunchy and chewy foods such as apples or whole fruits, carrots or corn on the cob;
  • Chewing gum, pencils or your nails;
  • Opening your mouth widely – stifle yawns or use your fist to support your chin as you yawn;
  • Resting your mobile/telephone handset between your shoulder and ear.

Posture and neck movement

Sometimes the pain can be made worse by sitting or lying badly, holding your jaw in a bad position or by straining/craning your neck. A stiff neck can also cause pain to be felt in the TMJ. Having an awareness of correcting this posture and keeping your neck mobile and strong can help with your symptoms.

Contact me for further information or exercises

The temporomandibular joint (TMJ)

The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) pain: symptoms

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