TMJ – Jaw Pain

Image courtesy of marcolm at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of marcolm at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

What is TMJ?

TMJ is the acronym used to describe the temporomandibular joint. This joint is a hinge that connects the lower jaw to the temporal bone of the skull. (The temporal bone is in front of the ear on each side of your head.) Why is this joint so important? Well, it’s flexible, letting our jaw move up and down (for things like talking, eating, yawning and more!). If there is a disorder of the TMJ, you may experience varying levels of pain. These disorders of the temporomandibular joint are referred to as TMD.

What Causes TMD?

The cause of TMD is not conclusive; however, there are some suggested causes such as:

  • Injury to the jaw or muscles of the head and/or neck,
  • Grinding or clenching teeth,
  • Stress (regularly tightening face/jaw muscles),
  • Rheumatoid arthritis in the TMJ

What are TMD symptoms?

  • Pain while chewing
  • Swelling of the face
  • Limited flexibility in being able to open your jaw
  • Popping noises when opening or closing your jaw and/or the jaw being stuck in a slightly open position

Think you’re experiencing TMD symptoms?

  • As a precautionary measure, start eating soft foods to minimize the effort spent on chewing. Additionally, avoid chewing gum and yawning.
  • Learn your options in treating TMJ prior to signing up for a surgical procedure. There are varying treatment measures that can be taken – including physical therapy. (Remember, direct access helps you get treatment, fast.) Learn about more treatment options here.

-Wayne McKinley, PT, OCS 

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