The temporomandibular joints (TMJs) — the joints that connect the jaw to the skull — are located just in front of the ears on both sides of the head. These joints are very flexible, giving your mouth the ability to open and close and move side to side and up and down while you talk, chew or yawn. 

But, when these joints become injured or move out of alignment, problems can result. These problems are collectively known as temporomandibular joint disorders. 

Some studies estimate that 10 million people or more in the United States are affected by temporomandibular joint dysfunction. Many of those affected are undiagnosed. 

Causes of TMD include:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis and other joint disorders
  • Bruxism (teeth grinding or jaw clenching)
  • Trauma to the head, jaw or neck
  • Whiplash

The Problem with TMD

Temporomandibular disorders, or TMDs, can cause pain, loss of use, and even feeling like the jaw will “lock” open or closed. 

Many people living with jaw problems experience these symptoms when they’re eating, talking or yawning. 

Other symptoms of TMDs include:

  • Pain and/or tenderness in the face, jaw and neck, when at rest or when swallowing, chewing, talking or yawning
  • Limited ability or difficulty when opening or closing your mouth
  • Feeling as if your jaw is going to get stuck when open or closed
  • Noises such as clicking, popping, scraping, snapping or grating in your jaw when you open or close your mouth
  • Unexplained ear pain, ear pain when you’re chewing, feeling as if your ear is “full,” or ringing in the ears
  • Painful headaches or migraines
  • Pain in the shoulders, neck and back

Don’t Live in Discomfort

You do not have to live in discomfort. The Bend Headache Center offers patients individualized and specialized treatment options to reduce painful symptoms by targeting the cause of your TMD. 

Our treatment also improves jaw movement and reduces the impact of TMD on the jaw, head, neck and posture. 

For many years, the treatment for TMD was painful and invasive jaw surgery. Not only is this treatment option uncomfortable, but it also has a long recovery time. 

Other treatment options can help improve TMD symptoms, including oral appliance therapy to relieve stress on the jaw joints. 

Physical therapy is also a treatment option proven to help those living with TMD find relief. This type of TMD rehabilitation focuses on: 

  • Muscle retraining (mouth opening, closing, speech and chewing)
  • Mobilization of your TMJs and neck joints 
  • Relaxation techniques to reduce the tension of the muscles that surround the jaw joints, as well as neck and head muscles
  • Improving swallowing 
  • Ensuring proper (nasal) breathing functions
  • Posture correction
  • Improving range of motion of the jaw
  • Balancing jaw muscles 

Starting Rehabilitation for TMD

Many individuals with TMD benefit from these physical therapies to restore normal movement — and function — to the jaw. 

Before your therapy begins, we will assess you to determine if you have TMD and identify the cause of your dysfunction. 

At your first visit, we will ask you about your dental history, oral habits (including gum chewing, cheek biting and jaw clenching), your health, how you sleep and any history of chewing, speaking or breathing difficulty.

At this assessment, we will also evaluate you for:

  • Range and quality of jaw movement 
  • Tooth alignment
  • Myofunctional habits during chewing and swallowing
  • Breathing
  • Posture 
  • Strength and mobility of your neck, back and shoulders
  • Unusual joint noises in the TMJs
  • Stress or tension in the chewing muscles

After we assess you and confirm the diagnosis, we will develop a personalized treatment plan to help rehabilitate your TMJs, muscles and behaviors. 

We can discuss your treatment options, which may include anti-inflammation treatments, massage and exercises. We will also talk to you about combinations of treatments that may help ease your pain and discomfort. 

We can also talk about your TMD triggers or what causes your symptoms to intensify, and what you should avoid with TMD. 

The Success of Rehabilitation

If you are diagnosed with TMD, you may be overwhelmed when learning more about your treatment options. You may also be scared that treatment is uncomfortable or that you’ll need surgery. 

For many people, TMD can successfully be treated through rehabilitation and other noninvasive interventions, including physical therapy. 

Our rehabilitation treatments offer various modalities and techniques to help decrease muscle spasms, reduce pain, lessen inflammation and, over time, promote healing of soft tissues like your jaw muscles, joints and ligaments. 

Our treatment can help restore your jaw’s normal range of motion by slowly improving your jaw muscle flexibility and strength. Additional reported benefits include improved head and neck posture, as well as a better range of motion of your head, improved posture and a decrease in your shoulder muscle tightness. 

Are you living with the discomfort of TMD? Find out how we can help today.