Your Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) is the most used joint in the body. Your TMJ (jaw joints) are used when eating, talking, breathing and most importantly, expressing our feelings and emotions.
The temporo-mandibular joint is formed by the mandible or jaw bone, joining with the temporal bone of the skull, just below and in front of the ear. You have one temporo-mandibular joint on each side of your face. Each joint has a cartilage disc inside keeping the temporal bone and the mandible bone apart from each other to protect them from creating wearing of the bone surfaces as well as to act as a shock absorber for the joint. The jaw joint is surrounded by a capsule enclosing it. The jaw movement is driven by many muscles responsible for its different actions.
You may or may not experience jaw pain or tenderness with TMJ dysfunction. The most common symptoms include:
- Pain in the area of jaw or ear
- limited opening, or
- an inability to fully clench your jaw.
TMD sufferers are often teeth grinders or clenchers. They can also suffer headaches, ear, pain, dizziness, and upper neck pain.
As a physiotherapist specifically trained in TMJ disorders I need to look at the entire area such as the neck, upper back and cranium and understand that an effective approach to managing TMJ disorder needs to be multifactorial.
- Treating both inside and outside the mouth to reduce the pain and spasm associated with TMJ dysfunction.
- Treating stiffness and spasm in the neck and upper back.
- Education regarding both sleeping and posture and other changes in daily living to reduce symptoms
- Prescription of specific TMJ exercises
- Working in conjunction with your referring dentist or specialist to coordinate treatment.
- Referral to other specialists for further investigation if necessary.