Temporo-mandibular joint ‘TMJ’ dysfunction or problems with the jaw joint, can be extremely debilitating. TMJ dysfunction affects up to 30% of the population at any given time. It can cause facial pain, neck pain, headaches, difficulty talking, pain and restriction with eating/chewing and opening and closing the mouth as well as the constant clicking and grinding they are associated with. Overall, extremely frustrating to deal with as we open and close our mouth thousands of times a day. It’s like trying to run a marathon every day on a sore foot!
Physiotherapists treat joint dysfunctions in all parts of the body. TMJ is no different to other joints. This joint consists of temporal and mandible bones, a disc, ligaments, capsules and muscles that surround the joint. Problems can stem from any of these causes.
For example: your dysfunction could be caused by the disc in the jaw joint being displaced or simply some muscle spasm from clenching your teeth overnight or associated with head and neck pain from poor posture sitting at a desk, driving and looking at your phones or devices.
Physiotherapy works very well in conjunction with temporary use of oral splints which may be prescribed by dentists. Similar to using a knee brace on a sore knee to help support it until the actual cause of the knee pain (ie. cartilage or ligament damage) is resolved.
Common TMJ complaints we treat include:
- Clicky jaw
- Locking jaw
- Painful on opening and closing mouth
- Stiff and unable to open mouth wide
- Problem singing
- Past facial or jaw injuries
- Problem with biting, chewing and eating because of painful/stiff jaw
- Nocturnal grinding/clenching
What does a Physio do with TMJ dysfunction?
We are well trained to assess joint, muscle and ligament dysfunctions. Our clinical examination involves systematic and detailed assessment of bilateral TMJ range of motion, muscle, ligament and capsule functions. The systematic method of examination helps ensure that we target the cause of symptoms (e.g. reduced opening or clicky jaw due to anteriorly displaced disc in the joint). Based on the assessment findings, we treat dysfunctions with manual therapy including jaw joint mobilisation, muscle release and ligament & muscle stretching program. Often a specific home exercise program between treatments facilitates faster recovery.
We know that this can be a very debilitating condition, so book in to see our expert TMJ dysfunction Physiotherapist, Tad Okutani.
Tad’s special interest is in the management of temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMD) and cervicogenic headaches. Tad also presents seminars in the management of TMJ to fellow Physiotherapists in Australia and Japan.