According to the National Institutes of Health, upwards of 10 million Americans suffer from a common diagnosis of TMJ. Various types of jaw or facial pain are often grouped as TMJ. The temporomandibular joint is comprised of the temporal bone (in front of the ear) and the top of the mandible (jaw). This joint is actually quite complex consisting of an upper and lower compartment. When you open your mouth, the lower compartment spins or rotates followed by a gliding or sliding motion in the upper compartment as you continue to open. Several muscles connected to the TMJ are responsible for coordinating mouth opening/closing, chewing, and speech. Any dysfunction in the joint’s motion or surrounding musculature can lead to face/jaw/neck pain, clicking, limited opening, or jaw lock. Typical causes of TMJ include trauma, habitual grinding or clenching, poor posture, chronic tension and spine stiffness. There are strong correlations between TMJ and chronic headaches. Physicians frequently refer patients to physical therapists that specialize in TMJ disorders. We will typically utilize a combination of soft tissue massage, joint mobilizations, exercise and neuromuscular retraining to address the underlying causes and restore normal function to the joint.
For questions about TMJ or to see if you can benefit from physical therapy, call our Raleigh office at 919-784-4696.