Jaw Pain & Physical Therapy

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Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Disorders affect approximately 6% of women and 3% of men, and is the 2nd most common cause of oral/fascial pain, only after dental related pain. TMJ pain can be related one or both TMJ.

The cause of TMJ is often multifactorial. There are many behavioral, biological, emotional, and postural factors. It is important when treating TMJ to look at and address all related factors.

Biological: The TMJ is one of the most frequently used joint in the body that moves with talking, swallowing and chewing, and moves at least 3,000 times! In order to perform all the activities required of it, the TMJ has to perform great powerful motions for chewing, as well as small, fine motor skills needed for talking and swallowing. The causes of TMJ pain can be related to one or both joints,and is usually a result of too much motion in one area and not enough in another area.

Behavioral Factors: Bad habits such as nail biting and teeth grinding can affect TMJ as well. Clenching, also known as bruxing can cause increased muscular tension in the fascial muscles and those muscles responsible for chewing. Repeated chewing on pens or nails can also increased TMJ pain, as a result of repetitive use or force in one area. Another culprit of TMJ pain can also be sleeping positions which can place increased stress on the jaw. gum chewing, nail biting, teeth grinding

Emotional: Stress and anxiety can also play a role in TMJ. We often carry a lot of stress in muscles, particularly in the upper quarter of our body, which can often lead to increased tension and discomfort. Stress and anxiety can also cause people to clench or grind their teeth, even if they are unaware of it.

Posture: Posture is another important factor that can lead to TMJ pain. Often times we adopt poor postures when driving, sitting at the computer, or using our phones. Over a period of time this poor posture, changes the way our muscles are positioned and they way that they function. A forward head posture (most common form of poor posture) can cause the mandible (jaw bone) to be pulled back further than it is intended to be which can compress the tissues within the joint leading to increased pain. This posture can also lead to shortening of the suboccipital muscles (those at the base of the skull) which can cause entrapment of the nerves in this area and cause headaches. Over time, as some muscles become stretched out and some muscles are shortened this changes the ability of the muscles to fire correctly and can cause weakness.

The treatment of TMJ is set around addressing these components. Physical therapy can be performed to address muscular and joint restrictions of the TMJ, as well as addressing postural dysfunctions.

We are privileged to announce that Shannon Arnie, DPT has received specialized training in upper cervical/sub-occipital complex, headache, and TMD techniques. Her training incorporates diagnosing and treating patients with upper cervical dysfunction and TMD.

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