by Emily Ciha, DPT, ATC
Do you struggle with jaw pain or clicking? Do you have difficulty with eating, chewing or talking? If so, you may be experiencing temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMD). Physical therapy can be a safe and beneficial way to manage these symptoms.
It is estimated that between 5%-12% of the population experience TMD. Younger individuals and females being at a higher risk (https://www.nidcr.nih.gov/research/data-statistics/facial-pain/prevalence). Common signs and symptoms of TMD include jaw pain, clicking or catching, as well as neck pain and headaches. Many people also report difficulty opening their mouth. These symptoms can interfere with quality of life especially if it’s difficult to eat or talk.
Treatment of TMD with physical therapy focuses on assessing the joints and muscles that surround the jaw while also working to correct any postural deficits and behaviors that can contribute to dysfunction. Some common behaviors that can lead to increased jaw pain include nail biting, gum chewing, clenching of the jaw and eating tough or chewy foods. PT also addresses limitations that might be happening in the neck or shoulders as these muscles and joints can affect posture. Common postural deficits that are seen in individuals with jaw pain are rounded shoulders and a forward head.
Here are a few helpful hints if you have jaw pain and are wondering if exercise can help.
- Work on improving your posture. Concentrate on sitting up tall with your shoulders back and head directly over your shoulders.
- Strengthen deep muscles of the neck. Begin by looking straight ahead and try to create a double chin. Try not to nod your head when doing this.
- Be mindful of habits. Be especially aware of habits such as nail biting, lip chewing or gum chewing. If you find yourself clenching your teeth, think about trying to ‘float’ your tongue in your mouth.
- Work on proper body mechanics. Many of us will push our jaw forwards before opening our mouth all the way. Try to drop your jaw straight down when opening.
If you are interested in scheduling an appointment to learn more about your jaw pain and ways to address symptoms you can reach out online or call at 866-588-0230.