A common issue that people suffer from is TMJ dysfunctions. The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) allows your jaw to open and shut. TMJ disorder is very common; more than 10 million people are affected in the United States. Some of the symptoms include difficulty opening or closing your mouth and severe pain with eating. There can be several issues that can cause this such as: bad posture or cervical spine issues, clenching or grinding teeth, after oral or facial surgery and trismus (lockjaw). To identify the cause of your symptom, your physical therapist will review the present history of injury, then evaluate posture, and how your cervical spine and jaw are moving. The therapist will examine the TMJ to find out how well it can open and whether there are any abnormalities in jaw motion.
Postural control plays a large role in neck and jaw pain. Fixing or improving posture can help eliminate symptoms. Typically, poor posture is defined as forward head, rounded shoulders, and increased thoracic kyphosis (rounding of the mid-back). This is caused by tightened structures in the chest, poor muscular strength in the neck and mid-back muscles, and decreased joint mobility. The “forward head position” puts a strain on the muscles, disc, and ligaments of the TMJ. The jaw is forced to “rest” in an opened position, and the chewing muscles become overused. To help correct these issues therapy will administer specific joint mobilizations to improve the joint mobility allowing the patient to extend their mid-back and improve thoracic kyphosis. There are specific stretches that will lengthen tight chest muscles in order to reverse a rounded shoulder posture. After regaining this new range of motion, strengthening thoracic and cervical muscles are the last component of improving poor posture.
Another area physical therapy will work on with your TMJ dysfunction is addressing muscular tightness and spasms that occur directly with the muscles that open and close your mouth. The primary muscles that are usually affected with TMJ are the masseter, temporalis, and pterygoid muscles. Physical therapists use specific manual therapy techniques to increase movement and relieve pain in tissues and joints. Your therapist will use muscle spasm release techniques and massage to help break up scar tissue “adhesions” that sometimes develop when there is constant injury.
TMJ cases require contact with your dentist in order to define the best device to apply at night in order to stop grinding or help correct joint alignment.
Michael Demetriades DPT received his doctorate degree from Quinnipiac University and is a therapist with Amity Physical Therapy. He has experience in working with all ages and injuries. Michael is a previous varsity hockey and baseball player well versed in injuries plaguing the modern athlete. Amity Physical Therapy was founded by Michael Dow MSPT and CEO/Director of the practice. For more information, contact Michael Demetriades in the Branford office at 203-433-4683 or visit www.amitypt.com.