TMJ (Temporomandibular Joint)
The sneaky reason for your Jaw Pain, Headache or Neck Pain?
The TMJ or Temporomandibular Joint broadly refers to the joint between your lower jaw (mandible) and your temporal bone of the skull/upper jaw. Each side works together as a hinge to help you talk and chew.
Dysfunction can occur here either within the joint (Intra-articular) or outside the joint (Extra-articular).
Like any joint surface, over time, intra-articular factors such as osteoarthritis could be a contributing factor to your discomfort. Also, a small disc like structure which helps the jaw to glide open and closed can sometimes move too far forward and/or become stuck, which may result in clicking and locking.
Extra-articular factors of the joint muscles can become overly tight due to overuse and fatigue from movements such as excessive clenching or chewing, which can result in headaches/soreness in the jaw and even neck!
Dysfunction symptoms can include:
- Soreness/tightness at the side of the head above the temple/on the jaw/behind the jaw
- Often accompanied by neck tightness and pain
- Nasal Pain
- Unable to open your jaw or mouth very wide ie yawning or the dentist
How can my Physiotherapist initially treat my Jaw?
- What is your resting jaw position? Do I clench a lot when I concentrate?
- What does your neck posture look like (as this can influence the jaw)?
- Do I need to make some short term adjustments to eating – such as reducing hard foods or foods which need excessive chewing (sorry, this might mean a delicious steak)?
- Do I need to change habits which use my chewing muscles excessively – such as chewing gum?
- What does my posture look like at the office? Do I need to look into changing my desk ergonomics (could mean an exciting trip to Kikki K/Kmart/Officeworks)?
Depending on the Stage, particularly early Stages, of Dysfunction around the TMJ (which your Physio will Assess), general manual therapy or hands on will most commonly improve your jaw dysfunction. Such as:
- Dry Needling or Soft Tissue Massage, which can be highly effective on the muscles which lift the jaw (most commonly affected).
- This can also be highly effective when targeting the neck muscles or muscles underneath the skull.
- Mobilising the jaw joint (encouraging the joint to sit in it’s optimal position, which also in turn relaxes tight muscles).
- Specific exercises which encourage better stability in the joint (particularly if you are experiencing clicking).
- Even teaching the muscles around the joint to recognise where they are in space in a better way, otherwise known as proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF).
There are many other reasons for jaw dysfunction, particularly if you may be in the later stages. If you think you may be experiencing some jaw dysfunction, have tried some of the tips above and would like further assessment & relief from one of our team, come into the clinic for an Assessment!
This isn’t something you have to live with, you’ll wish you had come in earlier!