TMJ Treatment at ProTouch Physical Therapy
Temporomandibular Disorder (TMD) and TMJ Treatment
Understanding TMJ Treatment
Temporomandibular Disorder (TMD) is a term that describes an entire group of disorders involving the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). A TMJ disorder is one of the most frequently misdiagnosed conditions and is one of the reasons most people miss out on effect TMJ treatment. The TMJ is the joint on each side of your head just in front of your ear canals. Studies suggest that one third (1/3) of the population at any one time experiences these TMJ symptoms that can be corrected with proper TMJ treatment:
Pain in or around the ear/ with or without ringing
Headaches and migraines
Arm pain that varies
Tenderness of the jaw-or-jaw muscles
Jaw pain when chewing, biting or yawning
Difficulty opening and/or closing the mouth
Tingling or numbness in the arms, fingers, or hands that comes and goes/varying in intensity
Clicking or popping noises when opening the mouth
Pain or tenderness in the back, neck, or shoulders
When you are affected by a temporomandibular joint disorder, it can be caused by a number of different reasons. Although the joint is essentially located in your face, controlling the movement of your mouth, it doesn’t function much differently than other joints. Ligaments are attached and a disk sits in place to prevent pain from friction as the bones rub against one another. Several muscles are directly connected to the joints in addition to a major nerve – known as the trigeminal – runs into the area. If a problem occurs in any of these areas, it can cause an array of TMJ-related issues.
The disk can be knocked out of alignment through injury, accident or repetitive motion. Sometimes the disk erodes from excess friction. And still in other situations, the cartilage in your joint can become damaged. Additionally, stress-related habits can contribute to overworking of the muscles which can lead to inflammation, pain and TMJ side effects which require specialized TMJ treatment to be corrected.
Jaw misalignment or malocclusion (the technical term for a bad bite) affects more than just your jaw and head. The misalignment can throw your jaw-to-skull relationship out of balance, straining your jaw, and, in turn, causing pain in your neck, upper and lower back, and shoulders. The entire upper half of your body can suffer from pain because of a misaligned jaw. Proper TMJ treatment can correct all of these issues.
Your muscles almost never work alone. All the muscles in your body are connected to other muscles. Every time you move, all those muscles work together to help you do whatever it is you need to do. Your bones are also part of the team. The bones in your neck are connected intimately with your jaw muscles. The ones you use for breathing, talking, chewing, and holding your head upright. If the muscles in your jaw are tight or sore, it affects your neck bones and their posture. Your back, neck, and shoulder muscles have to work much harder to compensate for the work your jaw muscles cannot do. As your shoulder muscles become overworked, you may get a great deal of shoulder pain.
TMJ can cause the muscles in your body to become overworked, contributing to shoulder and back pain. Bad posture does the same. Bad posture and TMJ can influence each other; jaw pain can throw off your posture and poor posture can heighten jaw pain. Correcting your posture can help break that cycle.
Stressed or fatigued jaw muscles throw off your head posture. Your neck muscles try to compensate, and quickly become overworked. As a result, the ligaments, and tissues surrounding the jaw and the neck may become stressed as well. You may notice swelling, discomfort, or even pain in those areas. Your shoulders, head, and neck all feel the effects of poor posture and pain in these areas are all symptoms of TMJ problems.
Although research is constantly being done related to Temporomandibular Joint Disorder, doctors point to a few medical or physical problems as the culprit. As stated above, some stress-related behaviors can also cause the problems.
People that suffer from rheumatoid arthritis or fibromyalgia are at higher risk of developing Temporomandibular Joint Disorder. This connection makes sense because both conditions affect the body’s joints. Some people are born with structural problems in their jaw or you may acquire this problem because of trauma, accident or injury (such as a dislocated jaw).
However, when you’re stressed and you have a tendency to clench your jaw or grind your teeth – you may be at increased risk for developing Temporomandibular Joint Disorder.
While research indicates 5 to 15% of the population is currently suffering from TMJ, the majority of people suffering from TMJ are women between 30 and 50. Having said that, most people don’t even realize they have the problem until it becomes increasingly worse; it starts to significantly interfere with their lives. What starts as mild jaw pain ends in not being able to eat without significant pain. A dull ear ache may persist until there is constant ringing in the ears, driving them crazy, not to mention literally leaving them dizzy.
Some of the most common symptoms are described here
When you have TMJ, you might experience tingling and numbness in your arms, fingers, or hands. This is because your bite is not aligned correctly, which causes muscle spasms. While you might not believe that a misaligned jaw can cause problems in your hands and arms, it is entirely possible because the muscles in your body are all connected. Problems with your jaw are often related to problems in other parts of your body. Your face and neck muscles are connected to your shoulders, and your shoulder muscles connected to your arm muscles. Problems in one area can easily cause problems in other areas.
The muscle spasms in your face, neck, or shoulders caused by TMJ can be excruciatingly painful – and they can also pinch the nerves that go down your arms, which may cause the tingling or numbness you are experiencing. Because your muscles may only spasm periodically, these feelings can come and go with varying strength or intensity, leading you to believe that the problem has rectified itself. Until, of course, the symptoms return.
As tingling and numbness can vary in intensity, you might be fooled into blaming the feeling on something else, especially when it seems to weaken. About half of TMJ patients report these tingling, burning, or numb sensations; some also report that their grip is noticeably weaker or reduced. Pinched nerves can also cause decreased blood flow, which can make your extremities (hands and feet) cold, pale, or have a bluish tint.
Symptoms of TMJ, such as numbness, tingling, or cold extremities may occur without added pain. Even if your jaw does not hurt and you do don’t feel any muscle spasms, if you are experiencing symptoms, you need a professional evaluation.
If you suffer from chronic headaches or migraines it may be due to TMJ. When your temporomandibular joint is not in proper alignment, this can lead to aches and pains involving the head, jaw, neck, shoulders, and back. Headaches are one of the most common symptoms reported by those who suffer from TMJ disorders.
When there are problems with your temporomandibular joint, it also affects the surrounding muscles, nerves, and blood flow. This can lead to a variety of symptoms involving discomfort and pain. When your TMJ is out of alignment, it puts a constant tension on the muscles surrounding the joint.
Whenever you talk, chew, eat, yawn, breathe, or move your jaw even slightly and for any reason, it puts additional strain on your jaw muscles. They never get a chance to relax, even when you are sleeping. Those who suffer with TMJ disorders often clench their teeth, especially during the night. This adds even more tension to jaw muscles and can lead to the development of TMJ related headaches.
When your TMJ is out of alignment, it can cause pain that radiates through the jaw and into the face and head, leading to a headache. TMJ related headaches can affect your entire head and neck, though they are often focused in your temples, behind your eyes, around your ears and jaw joint, or at the back of your head near your neck.
Constant tightening and tension of the muscles surrounding the temporomandibular joint can spread through the rest of the muscles in your face and head, leading to a tension headache. A tension headache feels like there is a band or tightness around your head or scalp causing pain. The pain can be sharp, but is typically more of a dull and aching pain across larger areas of the head.
Many times, the improperly aligned TMJ can put pressure on one or more nerves in the area. This can result in compression of a nerve that leads to an interruption in signals to and from the brain. An interruption in nerve signals can result in confusing signals being relayed, leading to pain in nearby areas, including headaches.
Although your Mom might have spent hours upon hours telling you to sit up straight, this doesn’t necessarily mean that your poor posture is something you can be blamed for. Unfortunately, today’s lifestyle tends to support bad posture. For one thing, the average person spends the vast majority of their day sitting. Between commuting, too much TV, video games, and jobs requiring you to sit in front of a computer, slouching is pretty much the standard.
Our generation is far more inactive than our parent’s generation. Think about your current lifestyle. Do you spend most of your day at work typing at a computer? When you come home, do you plop down in front of the television? If you stop to think about it, you will realize just how much time you spend reinforcing your bad posture habits. TMJ can also impact your posture and not just in the area of the head and neck. It can affect the whole body.
When your jaw is misaligned, the upper and lower teeth of your mouth do not line up in the correct way. Misalignment causes the muscles of your jaw to overcompensate for the problem leading them to work harder than they should. Left untreated, the overcompensation can lead to inflammation. It builds up in the neck, shoulders, and back causing them to become stiff and strained. Your body is forced to readjust when the strained muscles become irritated, thus continually putting more and more of your body into misalignment. This can easily cause pain in the shoulders, neck, and back and, consequently, poor posture.
Your postural problems can begin with a simple, subtle tugging feeling on your head. This tugging then pulls on you neck, shoulders and spine and leads to subsequent slouching. Your neck, back, and shoulders may become slightly rounded which makes it appear that you are not sitting and standing straight. Your tension, stress, and slouching can impact your hips as well. In cases where a posture problem has become severe, one side of the body may actually seem higher than the other side.
When your body is not properly aligned, it is common for you to tire more easily and be worn out before the end of the day. Additionally, you may find that the misalignment can lead to difficulties with control, strength, and balance. This can require more effort for even the most simple of daily activities.
There are some disorders that take time to develop and their symptoms don’t necessarily cause you pain. Sometimes it may take years or decades to know that you have it. Such is the case with a TMJ disorder. As your body is trying to cope, you have no idea that it is causing damage to your teeth, the joints of your jaw and your spine. As you age, your body slowly loses its ability to handle the rigors of the stress and strain of a TMJ disorder. Left untreated TMJ can cause irreparable damage.
Painless symptoms that indicate you may have a TMJ disorder include:
Deterioration of your jaw joints
Wearing of your teeth
A reduction of the gum and bone tissues surrounding a tooth’s roots
Damage to the vertebrae of your neck
What happens when TMJ symptoms are not addressed immediately with a proper TMJ treatment plan after diagnoses? The more you wait, the more it will hurt, the more it will cost, and the more it will impact your teeth.
Since your TMJ is located directly underneath your ears, many TMJ sufferers complain about pain and ringing in their ears. TMJ disorder can eventually lead to tinnitus or even permanently damaged hearing. Inner ear problems can also result in balance difficulties and recurring dizziness. Additionally, vision can be compromised by untreated TMJ symptoms.
Untreated TMJ can also lead to serious jaw problems. The jaw may become permanently “stuck” open, requiring a trip to the emergency room to forcibly close your mouth. Overtime, breakdown of the cartilage in the jaw not only leads to pain and unpleasant grinding noises – it can also mean a dislocation of the jaw. Don’t wait for your TMJ to escalate – contact a specialist at ProTouch Physical Therapy today for the TMJ treatment you need.
A thorough evaluation by your ProTouch Physical Therapist will accurately and effectively identify the contributing factors to implement an effective and realistic treatment plan that will eliminate your pain. Your TMJ treatments will consist of thermal modalities to reduce pain and inflammation, improve circulation, decrease muscle spasm, decrease fatigue and tightness, manual therapy techniques to improve range of motion, mobilizations/manipulation to restore proper alignment, myofascial release to decrease soft tissue restrictions and improve circulation and therapeutic corrective exercises to improve posture, muscle function of the jaw and posture support musculature.