Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder is one of the most common source of pain in the face, neck and head region. It usually presents with pain, clicking sounds, discomfort in chewing and episodes of locking of the jaw.
TMJ physiotherapy is a unique practice in which a registered physiotherapist performs a detailed assessment of the jaw joint and creates an individualized treatment and rehabilitation program for patients presenting with TMJ signs and symptoms.
Management of TMJ disorders:
There are different types of physiotherapy treatments that are effective for the management of temporomandibular joint disorders. They include:
- Manual Therapy
- Myofascial release
- Pain relieving modalities
- Home exercise program
- Postural correction
- Patient education
Manual Therapy and Myofascial Release
Manual therapy involves the practitioner using specific techniques to restore normal jaw movement by guiding proper joint movement and releasing tight muscles. The specific techniques help increase circulation, break down scar tissue and promote healing. Manual and myofascial release therapy is also used on the neck muscles which usually become tight in TMJ disorders.
Pain Relieving Modalities
There are various modalities that are utilized in reducing TMJ pain and they include:
- Therapeutic ultrasound
- Interferential current & TENS machine
- LASER therapy
- Shockwave therapy
There is strong evidence that acupuncture treatment is effective for TMJ disorders. Pre-sterilised needles are inserted around the TMJ and the surrounding muscles and left in position for 20 minutes. This allows the central nervous system to release natural pain-relieving chemicals such as endorphins, serotonin and melatonin. Pain relief can be immediate or within a few hours.
Home Exercise Program
TMJ exercises are prescribed to improve strength, lengthen and facilitate stability of the jaw joint. Postural exercises are also beneficial in the treatment of TMJ disorders as poor posture can contribute to TMJ pain.
Patients are educated on how to prevent and avoid exacerbation of their TMJ symptoms:
- Avoid forward head and slouched posture
- Do not eat chewy and hard foods and cut food into bite-size pieces
- Do not chew gum or bite on nails
- Avoid opening mouth wide
- Avoid sleeping only on one side
- Try to avoid moving jaw to make it click or pop
Management of TMJ disorders requires a multidisciplinary approach which include:
- Dentists and orthodontists
- Maxillofacial surgeons
- Consultants in oral and facial pain