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TMJ and How Physical Therapy Can Help

What is TMJ?

TMJ is a general name for any condition related to the jaw. TMJ stands for temporomandibular joint. Literally just the name of the jaw joint. When you are diagnosed as having TMJ or TMD (temporomandibular disorder) it is a catch-all term for a number of conditions related to the jaw. This includes jaw pain, headaches, neck pain, ringing in the ears, etc.

How does physical therapy help with TMJ/TMD?

In physical therapy we work on the muscles and joints themselves. If the joint is tight, we will gently stretch it. If the joint has too much motion (hypermobility) we will prescribe stability exercises for the jaw.

We also work on any muscle tightness or tension in the head, neck and jaw. Often there are lots of tight muscles in the area contributing to all the symptoms of TMJ/TMD such as the jaw pain itself, the neck pain, the headaches, the ringing in the ears. Often many of these symptoms subside once the muscles and joints start working properly.

What else contributes to TMJ/TMD?

Alignment of the teeth can also be a large contributing factor to TMJ symptoms. If the teeth don’t align properly this can cause increased muscle and joint tension. It also may be important to seek a dentist to help with the alignment of the teeth and the bite position to help relieve TMJ symptoms. Often both physical therapy and dentistry need to work together to alleviate TMJ symptoms.

What happens in a typical physical therapy session for TMJ?

Initially we will take measurements of your jaw and assess how it opens and closes. We will assess the mobility and flexibility of your neck. We will feel for muscle tension in the muscles of the head, neck and jaw. Based on your specific findings we will create a physical therapy program tailored specifically for you which may include exercises, stretches, and/or massage. Every physical therapy program consists of educating you on how to help yourself with simple exercises you can do at home.

How long does it take to heal?

Most of our patients get better in 4-6 weeks. That doesn’t mean you have to come to tons of physical therapy appointments in that time. Our patients typically come once a week for physical therapy. It also depends on how consistently you do your prescribed exercises at home in between appointments. The more consistent you do the exercises the quicker you will heal.

Take a look at this 5 star Yelp review from one of our recent patients we helped with TMJ.

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