September 28, 2017
Of all regions of the body that a physical therapist treats, you might think that the jaw would rank quite low on the overall list. But the truth is, disorders of the jaw are actually very common, and they can lead to a host of symptoms like headaches. Problems with the jaw, most of which fall under the category of temporomandibular disorders, affect millions of Americans every year. Fortunately, our Laurel physical therapists see these conditions frequently and we offer an effective strategy for managing them.
The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is a hinge joint that connects that bone of the skull directly in front of the ears (temporal bone) to the lower jaw (mandible). Temporomandibular disorder (TMD) is a general term used to describe a variety of conditions that cause pain and dysfunction in the jaw, jaw joint and surrounding facial muscles that control chewing and jaw movement.
TMDs most frequently affect women and those between the ages of 20-40, and the most common sign that a TMD may be present is pain or tenderness in the face, jaw joint, neck or shoulders. Other symptoms include difficulty opening the mouth wide, locking of the jaw, or a painful clicking, popping or grating when opening and closing the mouth. Some individuals also experience headaches that are very similar to migraines, causing an earache and pain and pressure behind the eyes. Those who experience these symptoms in addition to jaw pain should be aware that their condition might be diagnosed as a straightforward headache, when the problem is actually related to their jaw instead.
The definite cause of TMDs is still unclear, but they may be due to injury to that region, grinding or clenching teeth, osteoarthritis or stress. Whatever the cause, TMDs and resulting headaches can be extremely bothersome to those who experience them, but our physical therapists can provide treatments to help reduce symptoms like jaw pain in Laurel. Management for TMDs usually consists of the following:
Common treatments for TMDs from our Laurel physical therapists
- Both heat and ice therapy are typically used to improve circulation, reduce swelling, and relieve pain
- Focused training will also be given to improve posture and correct jaw alignment
- A physical therapist will massage the jaw to relieve muscle tension
- Patients will be instructed to perform specific movements of the TMJ to release scar tissue that restricts muscle movement and to improve range of motion
- Ultrasound therapy, which uses high-frequency sound waves directed at the TMJ, may also be used to reduce pain and swelling, and improve circulation
You may not hear about TMDs very often, but if you experience jaw pain to any degree, you will quickly find out how frustrating these types of problems can be. So if you’ve noticed any symptoms that suggest a TMD, it’s best to see us at CAM Physical Therapy and Wellness Services for an evaluation and personalized treatment program from our Laurel physical therapists. Contact us at 301-776-9443 to schedule an appointment at any of our four clinics in Laurel, Hyattsville, Glenn Dale/Bowie or Parkville/Baltimore, MD, today, or click here for more information on TMDs.