What is TMJ?
The jaw is one of our most used body parts - it is involved with eating, talking, breathing and, probably most importantly, expressing our feelings and emotions. This doesn't even include its extra uses as a hair and gum chewer, extra hand, head rest and bottle-opener.
Because of its importance, and the stressors to which it is exposed, things can go wrong, and it can hurt. So what is happening here?
The TMJ or Temporo-Mandibular Joint
Discussion about jaw pain invariably involves the temporo-mandibular joint or TMJ, and this is warranted. The TMJ is a complex joint both in structure and function, and serves as the "hinge" around which the jaw moves. I say hinge in quotes because the movement here is not as simple, and this is often where problems arise. The movement is a bit of a roll, and a bit of slide which is governed by a system of muscles, ligaments and a cartilaginous disk which sits between the two bones.
So what goes wrong? The joint can get irritated and inflamed, the disc can get struck forward, and the joint can get stiff - or the opposite, and have way too much movement - and you end up in severe discomfort, contemplating a soup diet. BUT, Jaw pain is not always coming from the joints themselves.
At The Headache, Neck & Jaw Clinic, we understand jaw pain is multifactorial, and can assess whether the TMJs are dysfunctional, if the pain is due to external muscular issues, neural sensitivity, a neck problem, or in most cases a combination.
We enjoy working with the challenges of facial and jaw pain and dysfunction and enjoy the successes that come with it being our concentration of treatment. If you have jaw pain or are worried about a stiff or clicky jaw, please give us a call today or book online now.
What are the Symptoms of TMJ?
Some of the symptoms that may be experienced are:
- Pain or tenderness of the jaw
- Facial pain
- Ear pain, ringing in the ear
- Difficulty in chewing
- Locking of the jaw
- Clicking sound or grating sensation when opening the mouth or chewing
How can The Headache, Neck & Jaw Clinic help me with TMJ recovery?
The main focus for both our clinics is Headache, Neck and Jaw conditions, with over 80% of our client base being treated for these conditions. We understand that each person is an individual, requiring their own recovery treatment program.
Our aim is to make a full assessment, help relieve the initial symptoms, and then assist in the recovery of your injury by fixing the problem. In some cases, this may require working with other healthcare professionals.
Our highly trained physiotherapists can assist by conducting a complete assessment of the injury and, in collaboration, will set out a full treatment, education and exercise program.
Treatment may include a combination of passive joint mobilisation, spinal manipulation and exercises. Dry Needling or laser treatment may be applied to help relieve the symptoms.
Our physiotherapists will explain in detail the outcome of your assessment, collaborate with you on what is required, and set out a program of setting future appointments for ongoing treatment providing written information and ongoing education instructions on exercises to help heal and strengthen the neck.
Guidelines to Help Control Acute Jaw Pain
Jaw trauma and injury is common and often resolves with time and rest. Compared to injuries in other joints, it is almost impossible to completely rest the jaw, but you need to give the injured tissue time to cycle through the natural stages of the healing process. Just like it hurts to keep walking on a twisted ankle, it hurts to keep using a sprained jaw joint. Instead of reaching for a crutch for your jaw, try these tips to give your jaw a chance to recover.
- Keep your jaw in neutral posture: place tongue on roof of mouth, teeth apart, lips together and breathe through your nose
- Maintain good neck posture: the jaw and neck are critically dependent on each other
- Try both heat packs and cold packs
- Trial both anti-inflammatories and analgesics (eg panadol). Do not exceed the guidelines on the packet and consult your GP if you are unsure whether it is right for you.
- Avoid Stressful situations! Do whatever works for you to relax.
- Cut food into small pieces to avoid opening your jaw past 20 mm
- Try to chew evenly on both sides of your mouth (within reason)
- Eat hard and chewy foods, choose soft foods like pasta or fish. You don’t have to eat soup
- Tear food with your front teeth e.g crusty bread rolls
- Chew gum, pens or ice, no biting nails
By modifying your lifestyle and eating habits in accordance with these 10 simple guidelines, you should be able to avoid the jaw movements that cause your pain to persist.
If your jaw is not getting better with these exercises, you may need to consult an experienced Craniofacial Physiotherapists at “The Headache, Neck & Jaw Clinic,” who excel at expediting your recovery to have you pain free and eating all the good stuff again.