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My jaw hurts when I eat. Can physical therapy help?

Many times, jaw pain is cause by dysfunction in the temporomandibular joint or TMJ. TMJ is a joint that connects your jaw to your skull in front of your ear. The TMJ allows you to open and close your month to allow you to talk, yawn and chew. Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD) is when the normal function of the TMJ is limited or painful. TMD can cause the jaw to get stuck in a certain position. You may also have headaches, pain when chewing, or limit how much you can open your mouth.

What causes TMD?

  1. Bad posture: Many of us spend a lot of time in front of a computer, T.V. or car, which we tend to sit in a forward head posture. This forward head posture will cause strain on the structures in and around the TMJ.

  2. Jaw clenching: Some people clench their jaw when they sleep of during the day because of stress, which will put stress on TMJ.

  3. Poor teeth alignment

  4. Fracture: A fracture to the jaw cause TMJ stiffness, pain and cause TMD.

  5. Surgery: Surgery to the face or jaw can cause loss of motion and function.

  6. Arthritis

  7. The disc between the joint can displace, which can cause clicking and locking in the jaw, which may cause pain.

How can physical therapy help?

Physical therapy will work on improving posture, which will improve the alignment of the TMJ and reduce stress on it. Your therapist will work on the joint in you neck and upper back to improve alignment and posture. Your therapist will give you exercises to improve the strength of the muscle that help with posture. Therapists also will use hand-on techniques to improve TMJ motion and reduce tightness in the muscles and tissues around the TMJ and your neck. Your physical therapist will also tech you exercises to improve the stability of the TMJ to improve function and reduce pain. If your therapist feels some of your TMD may be cause by teeth alignment problems, they will refer you to a dentist who can correct the alignment with special appliances.

If you are having jaw pain, locking, jaw clicking, limited mouth opening or pain with chewing call us at (203) 978 – EDGE (3343) to find out how physical therapy can help.

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