Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) refers to the two joints that connect the lower jaw (mandible) to the skull. These joints are located in front of the ear on either side of the face and allow for movement of the jaw, including chewing, talking, and yawning.
The TMJ is a complex joint that is comprised of several different structures, including:
Articular disc: A fibro cartilaginous structure that divides the joint into two separate compartments and helps to absorb shock and distribute pressure during jaw movement.
Articular surfaces: The smooth, rounded surfaces of the mandible and the skull that form the joint and allow for smooth, pain-free movement.
Ligaments: Strong fibrous tissues that hold the joint together and provide stability.
Muscles: The muscles of mastication (chewing), such as the masseter and temporalis that control the movement of the jaw and provide stability to the TMJ.
TMJ disorders (TMD) refer to a group of conditions that cause pain and dysfunction in the temporomandibular joint. TMD can be caused by a variety of factors, including arthritis, jaw injury, clenching or grinding of the teeth (bruxism), and stress. The symptoms of TMD can include pain in the jaw joint and surrounding muscles, difficulty opening and closing the jaw, and a clicking or popping sound when moving the jaw. Treatment for TMD may include physiotherapy, medications, and in severe cases, surgery.
Causes of TMJ:
The causes of temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders (TMD) are not fully understood, but a number of factors have been implicated, including:
Trauma: A direct blow to the jaw or face can cause damage to the TMJ and lead to TMD.
Arthritis: Inflammatory conditions such as osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis can affect the TMJ, causing pain and limiting jaw movement.
Bruxism: Clenching or grinding of the teeth can put excessive pressure on the TMJ, leading to pain and discomfort.
Dental problems: Issues such as misaligned teeth, missing teeth, or tooth loss can cause changes in bite and jaw position that can result in TMD.
Stress: Stress can cause muscle tension and clenching of the jaw, leading to TMD.
Connective tissue disorders: Certain connective tissue disorders, such as Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, can affect the stability and function of the TMJ, leading to TMD.
Muscle imbalances: Imbalances in the muscles of the jaw can lead to overuse or strain of the TMJ, resulting in TMD.
It is important to note that the causes of TMD can vary from person to person and that in some cases, the cause may be unclear. A thorough medical and dental evaluation is necessary to determine the underlying cause of TMD and develop an appropriate treatment plan.
Signs and Symptoms of TMJ:
The signs and symptoms of temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders (TMD) can include:
- Pain: Pain or tenderness in the jaw joint, the surrounding muscles, or in front of the ear.
- Limited jaw movement: Difficulty opening or closing the jaw, or a feeling of stiffness in the jaw.
- Clicking or popping sounds: A clicking or popping sound when opening or closing the jaw.
- Lockjaw: The inability to fully open or close the jaw, or the feeling that the jaw is “stuck.”
- Tinnitus: Ringing in the ears.
- Dizziness: A sensation of dizziness or unsteadiness.
- Headaches: Headaches that may be located in the temples, forehead, or back of the head.
- Tooth pain: Pain in the teeth, especially when biting or chewing.
- Facial pain or swelling: Pain or swelling in the face.
It is important to note that the symptoms of TMD can vary from person to person and may be influenced by several factors, such as the underlying cause of the disorder, the severity of the condition, and individual differences in the structure and function of the jaw. A thorough medical and dental evaluation is necessary to determine the underlying cause of TMD and develop an appropriate treatment plan.
Treatment for TMJ:
Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder is a condition that affects the joint connecting the jaw to the skull. Physiotherapy can be an effective treatment option for TMJ.
A typical physiotherapy program for TMJ may include:
Soft tissue mobilization: This may involve the use of manual therapy techniques to help relieve pain and improve mobility in the jaw joint.
Stretching and strengthening exercises: These exercises can help to improve the strength and flexibility of the muscles in the face, neck, and jaw.
Postural education: Physiotherapists can teach proper posture and body mechanics to help reduce stress on the jaw joint.
Relaxation techniques: These may include deep breathing exercises and progressive muscle relaxation to help reduce muscle tension and pain.
Activity modification: Physiotherapists can provide advice on changes to daily activities that may be contributing to TMJ pain, such as biting on hard objects or clenching the jaw.
It’s important to note that the specific physiotherapy treatment for TMJ will vary based on the individual and the severity of their symptoms. A physiotherapist can develop a personalized treatment plan based on a thorough assessment of the individual’s specific needs and symptoms.
If you have any questions or would like to speak to a therapist about TMJ please call us at 03 9836 1126.
Kim, J. S., Moon, H. J., Park, J. Y., & Kim, S. J. (2019). The effect of physiotherapy on temporomandibular joint disorders: A systematic review. Journal of Physical Therapy Science