Millions of Americans suffer from chronic facial and neck pain as well as severe, recurring headaches. In some cases, this pain is due to Temporomandibular Disorder, also known as TMD.
Your temporomandibular joints, or TMJs, connect your lower jawbone to your skull. These joints get a lot of use throughout the day as you speak, chew, swallow, and yawn. Pain in and around these joints can be unpleasant and may even restrict movement.
Symptoms of TMD include:
- Pain in the jaw area
- Pain, ringing, or stuffiness in the ears
- Frequent headaches or neck aches
- Clicking or popping sound when the jaw moves
- Muscle spasms in the jaw area
- A change in the alignment of top and bottom teeth
- Locked jaw or limited opening of the mouth
If you notice you are experiencing any of these symptoms, let us know at your next appointment. Your doctor can help determine if you have TMD and create a customized treatment plan to help relieve your symptoms.
Not all jaw pain is associated with TMD
If you feel that you might have TMD, it is important to see us for an evaluation. We do a thorough clinical and radiographic evaluation of the jaw joint and jaw function. We also evaluate the jaw muscles and range of motion. Once this is done, we will discuss the concerns and make treatment decisions or options for you.
From a preventive standpoint, there are some things you can be aware of.
- Avoid all gum chewing
- Don’t cradle the phone receiver between your head and shoulder — either use a headset or hold the receiver to your ear with your hand
- Do not sit with your chin resting on your hand
- Practice good posture — keep your head up, back straight, and shoulders squared
A great many TMD symptoms are related to postural changes that are associated with trauma such as whiplash, falls, etc. Chronic clenching (either day or night) can be a major factor. In addition, there can be some aging factors in the postural considerations.
Often, the best results of TMD treatment include a physical therapy evaluation and treatment in conjunction with splint therapy (jaw repositioning appliance). If we feel this should be a factor in your situation, we will discuss it with you and make the appropriate referrals. Generally these referrals are covered under your medial insurance.
The environmental aspects of posture are often a contributing factor in perpetuation of your TMD symptoms in addition to actual joint symptoms. Examples can include long hours at a computer, texting, reading, etc. These contributing factors can often be addressed by the physical therapist.