Physical Therapy Treatment Approaches
In part 1 we talked about a huge number of people suffering from symptoms related to dysfunction in the jaw, or temporomandibular joint, and its supporting structures. Now in part 2, we’ll be talking about treatment approaches to these conditions. When you’re ready to schedule your appointment at MPLS Health & Wellness NE, simply call us at 612-750-7168 or visit our online appointment page.
By Justin Blood, DPT
There are a variety of treatment approaches to address jaw pain ranging from simply reducing activity (avoiding clinching and grinding or stop chewing gum) to something as involved as surgery. For our purposes, I would like to address some of the conservative approaches to treatment of jaw pain by a physical therapist.
A very basic starting point is postural awareness. Because of the close relationship of the jaw to the neck, posture can influence the function of the jaw. With forward head posture, the jaw, when at rest, may translate forward as well. This results in a change to the forces on the joint with movement and an increase in the demand on the muscles of the jaw. Proper spinal posture is important, and so is the position of the jaw. The resting position of the jaw is with the teeth slightly apart- bottom teeth not touching the top teeth. The tongue should be positioned as though you are making the ‘N’ sound. And most importantly, the muscles of the jaw should be relaxed.
Irritated jaw muscles often respond well to focal massage to reduce tension. Much like working the knot out of a tight neck or shoulder muscle, working out the restriction in a jaw muscle can provide significant relief.
Normalizing Muscle Control
Normalizing the muscle control of the jaw joints is important as well. This means making sure the muscles that open and close your mouth do so in a smooth and controlled manner, and that these muscles work well together. This can be achieved with specific exercises that your physical therapist may teach you.
And lastly, but possibly most important of all, patient education can have a drastic impact on jaw pain. Foods like steak, bagels, and other chewy foods may need to be avoided temporarily to reduce the strain on the jaw. Education on strategies to actively avoid clinching and grinding reduces unnecessary strain. Instruction on a basic exercise routine including neck stretches and self-massage for the jaw muscles can help reduce tension in the muscles.
This treatment approach can help reduce or eliminate jaw pain for many. For those who have more of a structural cause to jaw pain this approach may help but may not be enough to alleviate the pain. Additional treatment such as a custom night appliance may be necessary to reduce clinching and grinding at night. And finally, some cases may require invasive treatment such as injections or surgery.
There are many causes of jaw pain, and there are many symptoms related to jaw dysfunction. Some of the common treatment strategies have been shared. Most importantly, if you are having jaw pain, make sure the cause is not a serious medical condition like heart attack. Jaw pain is common, and the number of people suffering from it is probably more than the 1 in 8 stated earlier. Many people either accept it as the new normal, or they do not know that there are excellent conservative treatment options out there. If you are suffering from jaw pain, headaches, and neck pain it’s worth finding a physical therapist near you who specializes in TMJ dysfunction to help identify and treat the root cause of the pain.
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About the Author
Justin Blood, DPT OCS, has been a practicing physical therapist since 2000. He completed his doctoral degree in physical therapy through Loma Linda University. He is certified as an Orthopedic Clinical Specialist through the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties. He also completed his basic and advanced training in bike fits through Serotta International Cycling Institute in 2012 and 2017, respectively. Justin has also been a credentialed clinical instructor through the American Physical Therapy Association since 2013.
Justin specializes in the treatment of lower extremity biomechanics and spine mobilization/stabilization. He is well-versed in treating cycling and running injuries related to overuse, as well as temporomandibular disorders (TMJ) and headaches.
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Chiropractic medicine has countless benefits. To schedule a consultation or learn more about what this amazing branch of medicine can do for you, give Minneapolis Health and Wellness a call today at 612-750-7168.