July 17, 2013
It’s jaw-dropping information, but believe it!
We all know that physical therapists treat the musculoskeletal system - bones, joints and muscles. So that includes knees, backs, shoulders . . . and jaws?
That’s right. The Temporomandibular Joint, better known as TMJ, is the hinge joint that connects the lower jaw (mandible) to the temporal bone of the skull. It is immediately in front of the ear on each side of your head and is often the culprit for many symptoms of Temporomandibular Disorders (TMD) including:
- Pain and tenderness in the face, jaw joint area, neck, shoulders and ears during activities like chewing and speaking
- Limited ability to open the mouth wide, or the joint locks in the open or closed position
- Clicking or popping sounds
- Tired feeling in the face
Tips for dealing with TMD
For the temporary discomfort of TMD, here are some things that can help:
- Heat or ice
- Eat soft foods
- Medicate to reduce pain and swelling
- Avoid excessive yawning and chewing
- Avoid resting your chin on your hand
- Keep your teeth apart to relieve pressure on the jaw
- Improve posture
- Learn relaxation techniques
What can Physical Therapy Do?
When these basic treatments prove unsuccessful, physical therapy may be the answer!
Instead of resorting to trigger point injections or surgery, patients can be treated by specially trained physical therapists who utilize soft tissue mobilization, massage, manual therapy, ultrasound and electrostimulation modalities to relieve and correct the symptoms of TMD.
“I feel most patients appreciate a conservative approach . . . and a majority of them show improvement after treatment,” says David Feiza, physical therapist at ATI’s Geneva South clinic, who has been practicing physical therapy for 34 years. “Exercises are used to relieve pain and restore function. Emphasis during treatment is focused on self-care techniques, including postural training, since the cervical spine has a strong influence on the TM joints.
Be an advocate for your own care
- Talk to your physician, dentist or oral surgeon about PT as an option for your jaw problems. While many involve physical therapy during the care of their patients, yours may not be aware of its benefits.
- Post Operatively: Some patients who do take the surgical route are referred by their oral surgeon or orthopedic surgeon to do some post-operative rehab for the joint. This helps improve the outcome of their surgery, so if you are a surgical candidate, be sure you choose a surgeon who recommends PT for his/her patients!
- Home Exercises: The exercises and stretches learned during physical therapy are a valuable tool that can help you if symptoms should ever return. You will be able to manage symptoms on your own.
Find out if physical therapy could help you
ATI Physical Therapy offers complimentary screenings. However, not all physical therapists have special training to screen for and treat TMD. Please use this list to find a specially trained therapist in your area, and call today to schedule your complimentary screening appointment!
Geneva South (David Feiza) (630) 584-1411
Elgin (Jerry Sullivan) (847) 468-6098
Chicago / Avondale (Christy Anderson) (773) 478-0496
Darien (Themis Raftis) (630) 985-4010
Naperville North (Sue Burton) (630) 355-5255
Valparaiso (Kelly Langan) (219) 462-0576
Lafayette (Linda Hall, Meagan Weigle) (765) 477-6464
Eagle Highland (Tim Murphy) (317) 290-1177
Martinsville (Priya Pockyarath) (765) 349-9255
Bloomington (Marissa Schaeuble) (812) 336-8406
Northeast Indy / Castleton (Frank Klene) (812) 336-8406
Fishers (Nate Mejeur) (317) 813-0148
Noblesville (Kristen Swinehart) (317) 774-7744
East Indy (Beatrice Davis) (317) 890-7700
Bear (Ari Kaplan) (302) 392-3400
Newark Spine / Ortho (Marie Mullen) (302) 894-1800
Millsboro (Dave Pinkerton) (302) 297-0700
Jennersville (Jason Guarneri) (610) 869-2200