A joint disorder, or dysfunction, (TMD) is a common condition that limits the natural functions of the jaw, such as opening the mouth and chewing. It is sometimes incorrectly referred to as “TMJ,” which represents the name of the joint itself. Physical Therapists help people with TMD ease pain, regain normal jaw movement, and lessen daily stress on the jaw.
Your temporomandibular joints connect your mandible or lower jaw to your skull. These joints are located in front of each ear and are referred to as the TMJ. Like other joints, there is a capsule surrounding these joints, ligaments, a disc and muscles to control all motions needed to bite, chew, talk and yawn. When problems arise in the TMJ we refer to this as TMD or temporomandibular dysfunction. Just like any other joint, problems can arise due to wear and tear, poor alignment, muscle tightness or disc displacement. Often issues arise from chronic and habitual clenching and grinding, orthodontic treatment, dental issues, trauma, and very often, by our response to the stresses of everyday life.
Your physical therapist can help you restore the natural movement of your jaw and decrease your pain. Based on your condition, your therapist will select treatments that will work best for you.
There are many symptoms besides jaw pain that one might experience with TMD such as clicking, locking, muscle spasm, limited jaw motion, headache, ear pain or ear fullness, dizziness or problems swallowing. Patients sometimes are referred from their dentists or primary care physicians to an ENT, orthodontist or neurologist. Approaches to treatment often include a soft diet, anti-inflammatory or muscle relaxant medication, hot compresses and use of a mouth splint or guard. Although these are all appropriate and important interventions, alone they do not address the mechanical issues or functional limits you might be experiencing, and more often than not, patients are left with only minimal or temporary relief.
Many who suffer from TMD assume they just have to live with the pain and symptoms. This is not the case. No matter what the cause, your TMD is a mechanical issue requiring mechanical treatment. Whether your symptoms just began or have been going on for years, a physical therapist can help.
I will assess your mechanics and function to determine the cause of your pain and functional limits. Through obtaining a full history of your jaw issues and completing a thorough comprehensive physical examination I can determine where and what the deficits or dysfunctions are and then I can develop a treatment plan that will minimize or abolish your pain, restore your function and help you achieve your goals. Interventions may include application of heat or ice, use of other modalities such as iontophoresis or ultrasound and manual therapy techniques for the joints and the muscles to name a few. Most importantly, I will educate and instruct you on a home program and self-care so you are confident in knowing what to do to for yourself, giving you control over maintenance and prevention of re-occurrence.
The program is generally covered by most health insurance companies; check your plan to determine copays or other requirements.
Part of F.F. Thompson Hospital
699 South Main Street, Suite 2A, Canandaigua
I have been a physical therapist since 1993 and have spent my entire career in the Rochester area specializing in orthopedics and manual therapy. Since 2007, I have had the privilege of learning from and working closely with the area’s best maxillofacial (oral) surgeons, TMJ specialists, dentists and physicians in treating patients with TMD. I have treated patients of all ages, backgrounds and lifestyles including athletes, Broadway performers and Olympic gymnasts. I am committed to providing you with the best care possible as we work together to restore your pain free jaw function and improve your quality of life.