TMJ Treatment: The Key That You May Be Missing!
TMJ, or TMJ dysfunction, refers to the pain, swelling, or dysfunction of the temporomandibular joint. This is the joint where your jaw attaches to your skull, just in front of the ear. This is a critical and heavily used joint that is involved in speaking, eating, yawning, chewing gum, opening and closing the jaw, and much more. The TMJ is constantly in use. When it becomes inflamed, it can cause severe pain, discomfort, limited range of motion, and sometime locking of the jaw. TMJ dysfunction can also manifest as a feeling of fullness in the ear, ringing of the ear (known as tinnitus), ear pain, or even headaches. For this reason, pain associated with the TMJ is often mistakenly believed to be an earache.
The pain or other symptoms associated with TMJ dysfunction can be accredited to the actual joint itself, where the mandible (jaw bone) meets the temporal bone (part of the skull) and connect via a cartilage disc that allows for smooth movement of the joint. When this disc is compromised or displaced, it can restrict movement of the joint or cause the jaw to “lock.” In other cases, inflammation or injury of the muscles surrounding the joint can be the cause of pain and discomfort. The main muscles controlling movement of the jaw are the masseters, pterygoids, and the temporalis muscle. Seeing as how the TMJ and surrounding muscles are used in just about everything we do in our daily lives, when it is not functioning properly it can be a severe hindrance.
What causes it?
TMJ dysfunction can be a result of trauma to the face or jaw or degenerative diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis. In the absence of these, TMJ pain is more often than not due to stress. Stress leads to clenching of the jaw, which can occur either during sleep (known as bruxism) or during the day. Even when people claim they are not stressed, they often show a significant improvement in symptoms when put on a relaxation program. Everyone experiences stress and we all hold it in different ares of our body (shoulders, back, hips, etc.). When we subconsciously store tension in our TMJ, the joint or surrounding muscles become irritated, inflamed, and painful.
How it it treated?
Because stress is a major cause of TMJ that is often ignored, many people try other methods of relief without success. Mouth guards are often used for people who clench and grind their teeth at night. This may prevent the grinding of teeth but will not prevent the clenching causing the TMJ pain. Painkillers may mask the pain temporarily but until the root of the problem is addressed, the pain cycle will continue.
If you suspect you may have TMJ, your best option for successful treatment is to seek out a Physical Therapist that can get you started on a relaxation program. When consistently followed, a relaxation program can begin alleviating symptoms in about three weeks. Range of motion should increase and pain will subside. Headaches associated with the TMJ dysfunction will likely become less frequent or go away entirely. Committing to a long-term relaxation program may seem a bit daunting, but you will be amazed with the results not only in your TMJ, but in your overall health and happiness.
At Sport and Spine Physical Therapy and Wellness Center, we specialize in treating TMJ. We offer free consultations and ML830 low level laser therapy for pain relief and increased healing. Dr. Ryan Whelton, DPT, has also developed a method for immediate pain relief that has been extremely successful in treating pain of all kinds, including TMJ. You can see this method in action in the video below. If you are in pain, don’t hesitate to call our office at 813-910-9040. We are located in the New Tampa/Lutz/Wesley Chapel Area at 15349 Amberly Dr. Tampa, Florida, 33647. We would be happy to schedule a consultation and get you feeling better!