Problems with the temporomandibular joint, or TMJ, are extremely common. Whether via teeth grinding, muscle clenching, poor posture, or surgery, the jaw can become stiff and unaligned. Over time, symptoms may grow to include dizziness, tinnitus, face and neck pain, headaches, and trouble opening and closing the mouth among other complications. TMJ symptoms and treatment vary from patient to patient; however, physical therapy reduces TMJ pain and offers benefits for all. A physical therapist is able to help relax, stretch, and release tense jaw muscles to reduce pain and give the stressed-out joint an opportunity to heal.
Whether sitting or standing, people with TMJ problems often thrust their heads forward past their shoulders. This puts the neck, cranium, and cervical column out of alignment. It also adds stress to these areas. Because of the abnormal positioning, the lower jaw is forced to pull back. In turn, the joint tenses under the unnecessary pressure and leads to TMJ neck pain. We can show you how to adjust your posture and relax your body by aligning your head and neck with your shoulders.
Exercise the Jaw
With physical therapy, many patients are able to relieve jaw tension via simple exercises. These may include:
• Opening and closing
• Side-to-side movements
• Chin tucks
• Relaxed jaw maneuvers
We can also help you find the optimal resting position for your teeth. If you tend to yawn too wide, your therapist can work with you to avoid overextension and protect your jaw. The goal of regular exercise is to boost joint mobility and relax tense muscles around it.
Strengthen Facial Muscles
If your TMJ pain is due to an injury or surgery, your physical therapist will work with you to repair and strengthen jaw facial muscles. In some cases, this regimen may include “low-load” exercises. Although these movements may not feel like progress, they are specifically meant to prevent further injury and inflammation.
Understand TMJ Stressors
Finally, we will help you identify and avoid the stressors that trigger TMJ problems. One of the most common culprits is teeth clenching or grinding. This can occur for many different reasons and is often a subconscious reaction to stress. People also tend to clench their jaws when chewing gum, focusing on a task, or performing strenuous activities. We can teach you not only to recognize when you are tensing your jaw, but also which situations cause it.
He or she may also have you adhere to a soft diet in order to avoid chewy and tough foods that irritate the jaw. These often include gum, popcorn, chips, steak, pizza, apples, and corn on the cob. Together, habit and diet modifications work to eliminate TMJ pain and give the joint a chance to heal.
End TMJ Pain – Contact Michigan Head and Neck
TMJ discomfort impacts millions of Americans; however, many are able to find relief. To learn about the many options for TMJ relief, get in touch with our team at Michigan Head and Neck. You can reach our office in Warren at (586) 573-0438.