TMJ (Jaw Pain/Dysfunction)

What is the TMJ (Temporomandibular Joint?

The TMJ is located directly in front of your inner ear, below your temple, and is a part of the body we use many times during the day when we talk, yawn, eat, drink or chew (see diagram). Usually, you are only aware of this joint when it becomes painful.

What causes TMJ Dysfunction?

The pain and tenderness of TMJ dysfunction can be caused by the disc in the joint moving out of place and causing pressure on sensitive structures around the joint.

Other causes of TMJ Dysfunction include:

Clenching or grinding of the teeth, both during the day and while sleeping at night
Poor posture, leading to strains or overuse of muscles in the face and neck
Inability to relax
Poor diet
Lack of restful sleep
Alignment or structural problems present since birth
Injuries to the face, head or neck, such as concussions, facial blows, or motor vehicle accidents

Symptoms of TMJ Dysfunction

The pain of TMJ dysfunction can be sharp, searing and catching, locking or dull and constant. It can be extremely debilitating.

Other symptoms include:

Ear pain, or fullness of the ears
Facial pain
Sore, tight, tender jaw muscles
Temple, cheek, tooth or jaw pain while swallowing, yawning, talking or chewing
Jaw popping, clicking or locking upon opening or closing, or while chewing
Reduced ability to fully open or close the mouth
Frequent headaches or neck aches
Muscle pain and spasms in the face, head and neck
Ringing in the ears

Physiotherapy and TMJ Treatment

Are there treatment options?

Fortunately, a trained Physiotherapist can help by teaching you relaxation, stretching and strengthening exercises for the face, head and neck muscles. These exercises can also help to augment the effect of the appliance or mouth/bite guard your dentist may have already provided to you.

Your program may include one or more of the following:

Stretching and strengthening exercises of the jaw, head and neck

Postural correction, relaxation and breathing exercises

Manual stretches and mobilizations of the jaw and neck joints

Ultrasound and electrical stimulation to improve healing

What can you expect?

At Back In Action Physio, you will work directly with a certified Physiotherapist, trained through post graduate course work, in the assessment and treatment of TMJ dysfunctions.

Your Physiotherapist will assess:

Your unique jaw and neck movement disorder or alignment issues

Muscle imbalances and tightness. Any joint related problems

Following your assessment, your Physiotherapist will put you on a specific, individualized exercise program. You will continue to see your Physiotherapist to monitor and progress your program, and to provide you with the hands-on therapy you may require.

Your Physiotherapist will always be in contact with your dentist and/or specialist to coordinate your treatment with their recommendations.

Back In Action Physiotherapy Clinic’s “Quick Tips” for protecting your Jaw:

Rest your muscles and joints by eating soft foods when in pain
Do not chew gum, pencils, or fingernails
Avoid clenching or tensing the muscles of the jaw, face and neck
When in pain try relaxing your jaw muscles with moist heat or with ice
Try to practice stress management techniques, relaxation or deep breathing exercises
Make sure to get plenty of good sleep
Avoid caffeine and alcohol
Always follow the advice of your dentist or oral specialist, and use your appliance as prescribed