The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is the hinge joint of the jaw. We each have 2 of them located just in front your ears. Those who have dysfunction or pain in the jaw know exactly where it is located.
When this joint becomes problematic it becomes difficult to open your mouth, bite and chew. The jaw often will click and pop. You may also have headaches. These symptoms can be due to many issues including muscle spasms, inflammation, or problems with the disc in the joint.
One of the underlying problems associated with TMJd is loss of mobility in the upper part of the neck (suboccipital region) and associated postural changes in the spine. These issues cause the jaw to change the way it opens and closes.
Physical therapists should be your go to person to address these problems with the jaw. Treatments include hands on techniques to relax the jaw muscles and correct the mobility issues in the jaw. They also address the underlying neck and posture issues with hands on mobilization techniques. PTs will teach self mobilization and postural exercises so that you can manage the TMJ dysfunction on your own.
Four self treatment activities that may help if your jaw has not been problematic for too long would be:
- Self massage: to relax the clenching muscles. Laying on your back with a small pillow supporting your head place your tongue on the top of your mouth allowing your mouth to slightly open. Using your finger tips work in a circular motion at the junction of your jaw just in front of your ear. Move your fingers in forward and backward directions using light pressure. Then stroke down from your temple and cheek bone to the bottom of your your jaw bone gliding over the TMJ.
- Shoulder blade pinches: to help correct your posture. Sitting with your back away from the chair, pinch your shoulder blades back and down. Hold for 5 seconds. Repeat 10 -20 time
- Chin tucks: to help correct your posture and improve neck mobility. Sitting with your back away from the chair, pull your head straight back keeping your chin tucked in. Think of pulling your nose away from something that smells foul.
- Resisted jaw opening: to help relax the clenching muscles. Sitting or standing try to assume corrected posture by lightly pinching shoulder blades and tucking chin as described above. Place your fist under your chin. Gently open your mouth, resisting the movement with your fist. Hold for 5 sec. Repeat 5-10 times. This should help with reducing the tone of the clenching muscles around your jaw.
If you need more advanced help in resolving TMJ issues please contact us at RI Limb Prosthetics, Orthotics And Physical Therapy or call 401-884-9541. If you are not in the East Greenwich area contact your local PT for further guidance.