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Pain in the Jaw – How Can Physical Therapy Help?

woman holding sore jaw

Get to know your TMJ (Temporomandibular Joint):

  • About 12% of people in the US experience TMJ problems at some point in their lives
  • TMJ issues are reported in women 9x more than in men
  • The TMJ is used more frequently (3,000 times/day!) than any other joint in the body and is active with talking, swallowing, and chewing
  • The TMJ can generate 134-190 lbs. of force

What Are Signs of TMD (Temporomandibular Dysfunction)?

  • Jaw pain
  • Can be sharp or dull
  • Can occur with chewing and/or yawning
  • Restricted motion of the jaw
  • Limitation with opening
  • Jaw locking- can be locked open or closed
  • Ear symptoms
  • Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
  • Hearing loss or hypersensitivity to sounds
  • Dizziness

What Can Cause TMD?

  • Trauma- direct blow to the face, whiplash, long dental/oral procedures
  • Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis
  • Stress, anxiety, and depression
  • Neck pain
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Sleep apnea
  • Poorly fitting masks

How Can Physical Therapy Help?

Our physical therapists trained in TMD will measure the range of motion of your jaw and neck to see if you have restricted mobility or excess mobility with insufficient stability, observe the resting posture of your neck and jaw, assess breathing mechanics, determine the flexibility and length of the muscles that contribute to jaw function and the mobility of your temporomandibular joint capsule. From this information, your physical therapist will devise a treatment plan specific to your needs to help reduce pain, improve function, and reach your goals.

woman considering

Tips for a Healthy Jaw:

  • Healthy Resting Position: When you are not talking or eating, your lips should be closed, teeth should not be touching, and your tongue should be gently resting on the roof of your mouth- fully contained within the teeth but not pushing against them
  • Be Aware of Bad Habits: Gum chewing, clenching your jaw, biting your nails, pencils, and cheek, and poor neck posture with working and sleeping are all habits that can exacerbate existing TMD, or cause TMD
  • Find a Comfortable Face Mask: If your mask rides up, falls downwards, or is too tight around your ears, you may be overusing the muscles of your jaw to maintain mask position, which may lead to TMD symptoms

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