All About TMJ Disorders
TMJ is short for “temporo-mandibular joint,” and disorders associated with this joint are a common complaint our physiotherapists here at Glen Eira Physiotherapy Centre treat.
The TMJ is where your lower jaw (mandible) attaches to the base of your skull on each side of your head. If you place your fingers just in front of your ears and open and close your mouth you can feel these joints move.
Some People suffer from disorders affecting one or both TMJ’s, muscles and surrounding tissues. These disorders often cause pain and restrict jaw function. Signs and symptoms of TMJ dysfunction vary in their presentation and can be very complex. On average the symptoms will often involve one more of the numerous TMJ components: muscles, nerves, tendons, ligaments, bones, connective tissue and the teeth. Ear pain associated with swelling of the proximal (close to the joint) tissue can be a symptom of TMJ disorder.
Symptoms and causes associated with TMJ Dysfunction.
SELF-CARE FOR MANAGEMENT OF SYMPTOMS
1) Habit Modification: Try to avoid the activity that is causing the increased stress to the joints such as nail biting, gum chewing, and ice biting. You may see a dramatic change in your symptoms by simply modifying these habits.
2) Diet Modification: Eat a diet of soft foods in addition to chewing evenly. You may want to cut your food into small pieces which will help decrease overuse of the TMJ.
3) Pharmacological: Anti-inflammatory medications such as aspirin or ibuprofen can help to decrease pain and inflammation. However, you should consult with your physician before taking any of these medications.
4) Hot compresses: Use a washcloth soaked in warm water or a hot pack over the area of pain or tenderness. This will help reduce any muscle spasm you may be experiencing. Keep the compress on for about 10-15 minutes. If the spasms are severe, try to use these compresses hourly.
5) Dental Appliances: You may need some type of intra-oral splint, night guard or other appliance which can be given by your dentist or physical therapist upon diagnosis. This may help to stabilize the TMJ so the muscles, teeth, and joints work together without adding additional strain to the TMJ.
6) Cold packs: These can be used to help reduce any swelling, pain and muscle spasm. Leave the cold pack on for about 10-15 minutes. If symptoms are severe, use ice pack once every hour.
7) Positioning: The best position to keep your TMJ in is with your teeth slightly apart and lips together. Placing the tongue on the roof of the palate (top of the mouth) is also wise to ensure the position is kept. In addition, try to breathe through your nose as much as possible.
8) Stress Management: Stress is a common contributing factor to TMJ dysfunction. If stress is the contributing factor to your TMJ dysfunction, deep relaxation training, breathing, meditation or biofeedback are of great benefit.
9) Posture: A forward head posture is a big contributor to TMJ dysfunction. Try to practice good posture, especially when sitting for long periods of time.
WHEN TO SEEK PROFESSIONAL HELP
If your symptoms last more than 2-3 weeks, you should seek professional assistance. For a true diagnosis of TMJ dysfunction, a comprehensive history and physical examination along with other diagnostic procedures such as X-ray are necessary. The majority of the time, conservative, non-invasive treatment relieves the symptoms.
This article was written by TMJ Physiotherapist Carolyn Lockman.