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Jaw pain? Physiotherapy can help.

Although physiotherapists are getting more referrals from dentists, many people are not aware that physiotherapy is capable of treating a wide range of symptoms caused by a dysfunction of the Temporoandibular Joint (TMJ). Common symptoms are local jaw pain, clicking jaw, and muscle tension around the jaw.

Anatomy

The TMJ is a more complex structure compared to our other joints in our body because of the interaction among the disc and a good amount of muscles, ligaments, the jaw and skull bones. Furthermore it is supplied by blood vessels and a large number of nerves, which makes it sensitive to pain.

What can cause a TMJ problem?

Disorders in this joint rarely occur as single symptom, but more often as multiple problems with overlapping symptoms. Usually, the pain, tension and degeneration are caused by anatomical features. But pain can also occur after a period of teeth grinding, bite problems or even having to open the mouth for a long period of time at the dentist. A history of trauma, such as at hit on the face or head can also have aneffect on the jaw.

How can physiotherapy help?

The TMJ can be affected by several factors - the position of our head, the cervical spine, the hyoid bone and our posture are often responsible for a TMJ dysfunction. A specialized therapist will assess the TMJ together with it's surrounding structures, the cervical spine, the shoulder girdle and will analyze the posture of patient. The tongue, mouth and facial functions will also be assessed to get a clear view of the actual cause of the jaw pain or referred pain.

Depending on the diagnosis a physiotherapist have several treatment options. Treatment options include soft tissue release and trigger point therapy to decrease the tension of the jaw, facial and neck muscles, mobilization techniques to decrease pain and help the TMJ joint to move correctly.

Advice on the right posture and home exercises are essential to strengthening of the weakened muscles and to assist on the right alignment. Most patients will experience an improvement with TMJ physiotherapy. Lasting improvement however will depend on staying in the right posture, and being discplined in doing the home exercises.

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