Temporomandibular Joint Syndrome occurs when occurs when the temporomandibular joint, which is the main joint of the jaw, becomes inhibited and inflamed. It affects more women than men and is usually diagnosed in patients between 20 and 40 years of age. This disorder can be very painful and, in extreme cases, can make it almost impossible to eat and speak. Fortunately, physical therapy can help ease the pain.
Causes of TMJ
Before you can engage in TMJ treatment, you need to understand what has caused the disorder in your body. A physical therapist will be able to help you do this, assessing your jaw and its movements as well as the way you use and carry your body as a whole. Some common causes of the disorder include:
- Tooth problems. If your teeth aren’t aligned properly, you’ll have to move your jaw awkwardly to speak and to chew. Over time, this can cause damage which results in TMJ.
- Clenching your jaw. Some people clench their jaws at night without knowing that they’re doing so. This is usually a response to stress and can occur in the daytime, as well. This puts extra stress on the jaw and its joints and can result in TMJ.
- Poor posture. When people spend a lot of time sitting at a desk, they often thrust the head forward more than normal. This puts stress on the jaw and can result in TMJ.
Once you know the cause behind your pain, you’re ready for temporomandibular joint syndrome treatment from your physical therapist.
How a Physical Therapist Can Help
A physical therapist will treat the causes that underlie your TMJ so that you can find long-lasting relief. Here are a few things that a PT might do for you:
- Help you change your posture. Posture is usually deeply ingrained in the body and in the mind. Changing it is hard, and your PT can help. They will help you figure out what good posture looks and feels like in your body, and then they will help you gain the strength necessary to hold those positions, rather than falling into your older ones. They will also help figure out which verbal or mental cues help you maintain good posture.
- Help you stretch and exercise your jaw. If you need to change the way you hold your mouth or move your jaw, your physical therapist will help you with this, too. They can manually stretch your jaw, show you how to stretch it yourself, and give you exercises that will help you move it correctly in the future.
In some cases, you may need to work with a dentist alongside your physical therapy. Dentists can give you devices that keep you from clenching your teeth, for instance, so your TMJ doesn’t come back once it’s gone.
If you’re ready to treat your TMJ today, find a physical therapist who specializes in the condition. These experts know just how to help you so that you can get back to living your best life.