The temporomandibular joint, commonly referred to as the TMJ, is the “hinge” joint on each side of the head that allows the jaw to move smoothly up and down and side to side.
Temporomandibular Disorders, or TMD, are a group of conditions relating to functional problems associated with the TMJ and muscles of the jaw. These painful disorders affect nearly 10 million Americans each year, and have been found to be more common in women than men. Cioffredi & Associates physical therapists are trained to treat jaw pain and TMJ disorders right here in the Upper Valley.
The masseter muscle (in your jaw) is the strongest muscle in your body, based on its weight. With all muscles of the jaw working together it can close the teeth with a force as great as 55 pounds on the incisors or 200 pounds on the molars. (For comparison, it takes 22 pounds of force to break a pinky finger, 80 pounds of force to break four pencils, 90 pounds of force to bend an iPhone 6 Plus, and 100-170 pounds of force to crush a soda can.)
Common Symptoms of TMD
- Pain or tenderness in the face, jaw joint area, neck, and shoulders when you chew, speak, or open your mouth wide.
- Jaws that get “stuck” or lock in the open or closed position.
- Painful clicking, popping, or grating sounds in the jaw joint when opening or closing the mouth.
- Uneven or uncomfortable bite.
- Other symptoms may include toothaches, headaches, neck aches, dizziness, earaches, and hearing problems.
Causes of TMD
Painful TMD symptoms arise from problems with the muscles of the jaw or with the parts of the joint itself. These problems can be caused by an injury or dislocation, clenching of the teeth (often caused by psychological stress, anxiety, or tension), dental abnormalities affecting the bite, various physical stresses such as illness, poor nutrition or dehydration (especially in children), and various forms of arthritis.
Our Experience Treating TMD Non-Surgically
We have been treating craniofacial pain non-surgically since 1985. Our success in treating these conditions lies in our approach to correcting the abnormal biomechanics (motion and forces) of the region, and working cooperatively with any dental corrections or appliances.
The Aspects of TMD That We Treat
- Identification and correction of abnormal biomechanics of the spine and TMJ.
- Manual therapy to correct joint and soft tissue mobility of the spine and TMJ.
- Regaining length to shortened muscles and tendons, restoring proper movement patterns and postures.
- Pain management with ultrasound or electric stimulation when appropriate.
- Education in self-management including proper posture and ergonomics both at home and at work.
Treating TMJ Jaw Pain?
Clenching? Locking? Painful popping or clicking? Did you know that physical therapy can bring relief from TMJ discomfort?
A few sessions—and your partnership—with a physical therapist may well be your fastest route to recovery from TMD discomfort, and during your treatment you will learn how to maintain healthy function and prevent the return of pain.
Call us today to schedule an evaluation, and find out how we can help: 603-643-7788
Is it Necessary to Have a Referral?
While a written referral is not required to seek care, it may be a requirement of your insurance company.
A benefit of getting a written referral from your doctor or dentist is that it will ensure that they get a copy of your evaluation, re-evaluation, and discharge notes, so that they can keep up with your treatment progress. We are happy to provide referral forms upon request.
TMD Treatment Success Stories
Aileen had experienced a long history of clicking and popping in her jaw. However her jaw had become increasingly painful, limiting her ability to eat or brush her teeth. In seven sessions of treatment, she received education about her condition and has been able to return to her previous level of comfort and function:
“I came in uncomfortable and unsure. I am leaving confident and ready to take care of myself. The treatments themselves were terrific; they were interesting to me, but moreover made a huge difference. I am impressed with the breadth of training it takes to be a professional in this field.”
“When I had my first appointment I was in a considerable amount of jaw pain and couldn’t open my mouth wide enough to floss my back teeth. I left that appointment with an ‘exercise’ that changed my condition for the better, and returned at the next visit feeling much improved. I was very impressed with Kate’s professionalism, kind manner, and friendliness. It was obvious that she is extremely knowledgeable and chose the correct and perfect assessment of my issues. In two visits I truly feel like a new person—I am pain free and can open my mouth the width of three-plus fingers. I truly feel great; thank you!”
“Greatly improved my TMJ over the weeks. Anna was thorough, with a variety of exercises that graduated me along. Friendly, personable, encouraging. Thanks!”
“I was referred by my dentist for my jaw cracking and popping, which made it hard for me to eat even French fries. After three sessions, I was eating almost normally. The popping/cracking resolved and I was able to eat sandwiches. My jaw opens wider and my range of motion has improved. My therapist really took time to understand my issues and reservations, then carefully resolved them with me—giving me the tools to help me in the future.”