For TMJ Disorders, Physical Therapy May Be the Answer!
Estimates suggest as many as 1 in 8 people suffer from symptoms related to dysfunction in the jaw, or temporomandibular joint, and its supporting structures. In this series of blog posts, we’ll talk about what causes jaw pain, neck pain, and headaches and how physical therapy can help with recovery. 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
The Jaw: One of the Most Active Joints in the Body
With the combination of eating, talking, and chewing gum, etc., the jaw one of the most active joints in the body, making the supporting the musculature some of the most active muscles in the body. For the part, as with anything that is working well, we do not really think about the jaw until something is wrong and we begin to have jaw pain, headaches, or other related symptoms.
Common Symptoms Related to Jaw Pain
There are several symptoms related to dysfunction in the jaw. These include:
- Pain in the jaw joint itself
- Headache, especially waking up with a headache (and probably a stiff jaw too)
- Fullness in ear(s)
- Ringing in ear(s)
- Popping or clicking in the jaw
- Locking of the jaw, either open or closed (not to be confused with Lock Jaw from Tetanus)
- Radiating pain in the jaw bones- maxilla (upper jaw) or mandible (lower jaw)
- Neck pain
There are some other causes of jaw pain that should be noted as well. Jaw pain can be present with minor issues like a toothache but is also a symptom of a heart attack. So, it’s definitely worth paying attention to. If you are having other symptoms of heart attack, this is a potential medical emergency.
Causes of Jaw Pain
The anatomy of the jaw joint is very much like any other joint in the body. The jawbone, or mandible, connects to both sides of the skull to form the temporomandibular joints. Between the bones in each joint is a soft cartilaginous disc that improves the function of the jaw but can be problematic as well. The two joints allow you to open and close your mouth and are very important with speech. There are a number of muscles that control the movement of the jaw, and because of the close relation of the TMJs to the upper neck, even things like poor posture and neck pain can contribute to jaw pain. Some of the common causes include:
- TMJ/TMD- the joint(s) cause jaw pain. Dysfunction in the joint may be caused by the disc in the joint slipping out of place and causing abnormal jaw function.
- Tooth ache- can be felt as pain in the tooth specifically, or it may spread to a larger area of the jaw including the joint.
- Rheumatoid Arthritis
- Diseases such as Mumps and Tetanus (rare today thanks of vaccines)
- Heart attack- pain or pressure in your chest may spread and affect the jaw; jaw pain can be the only noticeable symptom of a heart attack, so it is important not to dismiss it without knowing the cause.
- Clinching or grinding teeth- this is common cause of jaw pain, headaches and facial pain and deserves a closer look.
As active as the jaw is with its regular daily activity, to then add clinching your jaw and/or grinding your teeth may cause overuse injury to the jaw muscles or joints- much like a tendinitis in the shoulder or elbow caused by repetitive activity. Overuse can result in inflammation of the joint as well as the muscles, resulting in pain that can be severe and debilitating.
Physical therapy can be very effective in relieving jaw pain. In part 2, we’ll review some of those techniques and what you can expect.
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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.
Still Curious About Chiropractic and Physical Therapy? We’d Love to Educate You.
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.