By: Tina Moses, DPT
Do you notice pain or difficulty opening your mouth to talk, eat or yawn?
Does your jaw catch, lock, make clicking or popping sounds or do you wake up in the morning with jaw soreness or stiffness?
If you answer yes to either of these questions you may have a TMJ disorder.
The TMJ is located in front of your ear where the upper and lower jaws meet. Jaw pain and/or difficulty moving the jaw can result from tight muscles, damage to the joint such as with arthritis, disease, trauma, poor posture, stress or from clenching your teeth. In turn, these conditions can cause headaches, jaw pain and/or stiffness, bite problems as well as the clicking/popping sounds or episodes of jaw locking.
Your medical physician, dentist or oral surgeons are able to evaluate for this condition and use x-rays or an MRI to confirm or rule out a diagnosis of TMJ disorder. Your medical practioner can then refer you to a Physical Therapist for treatment to assist with relieving pain and improving jaw mobility for eating, talking and oral care. Part of the therapeutic efforts will focus on techniques for resting your jaw, improving posture, diet modifications, using heat, cold, and or electrical stimulation to ease pain with jaw relaxation and range of motion exercises.
Other treatment options include mouth splints or surgery. Treatment for TMJ disorder takes time to be effective and is a partnership with you and your healthcare team.