Locked Jaw? Physical Therapy Can Help!

Locked Jaw? Physical Therapy Can Help! Blog

Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD) is an affliction that affects the Temporomandibular joint (TMJ), the joint that governs jaw movement. The condition is relatively common, and often resolves itself without intervention. However, in some cases, TMD may require professional care to resolve jaw dysfunction.

While the causes of TMD are difficult to identify, psychological stress and its related  teeth clenching and grinding are thought to be primary contributors to TMD.

Symptoms of TMD may include:

  • Pain in the jaw
  • Jaw fatigue
  • Trouble opening your mouth when eating or speaking
  • Locking of your jaw
  • Dizziness
  • Ear ringing
  • Severe headaches
  • Jaw popping
  • Pain in your neck
  • Shoulder pain

Potential Causes of TMD

A number of factors may play a role in the onset of TMD, including:

  • Poor postural habits: Spending long hours in a seated position with your head bent over a computer, driving, texting and other activities that thrust your head forward can cause misalignment of the neck and jaw, stretching the muscles and ligaments that hold your head in position, leading to TMD. Postural issues that affect the neck and jaw may also originate farther down the kinetic chain, in your chest, pelvis or shoulder blades.
  • Bruxism: Clenching and grinding your teeth, known as Bruxism, is often caused by stress. You may not be aware of the behavior, as it often happens during sleep. Stress is thought to be a primary cause of TMD.
  • Dental misalignment: Poor alignment of your teeth can affect the way you chew, which can lead to TMD. Your dentist may work with your therapist to correct the condition. However, dental misalignment is rarely the root cause of TMD.
  • Trauma: An accident or other trauma to the face or jaw can lead to fracture, stiffness and pain. The effects of old traumatic injuries can begin to manifest as TMD, years after the injury.
  • Surgery: Surgery to the neck and jaw can reduce TMJ mobility, and you may need physical therapy to restore full function.
  • Respiratory issues: Asthma, chronic nasal congestion, sleep apnea and nighttime mouth breathing can cause the neck and jaw to become misaligned, leading to TMD.
  • Facial muscle atrophy: Weak facial muscles can lead to jaw misalignment over time.
  • Tongue issues: Problems with your tongue can affect the way you chew, which in turn affects your TMJ.

Diagnosis and Treatment of TMD

Because the alignment of your neck and jaw are governed by muscle and connective tissue, the condition can usually be successfully treated with physical therapy.

After a thorough health history review, your therapist will evaluate your posture while sitting and standing, and conduct a physical examination of your neck and jaw. Real-time ultrasonography may be used to view your jaw in motion.

Treatment strategies for TMD may include:

  • Exercises to realign the cervical spine
  • Exercises to correct whole body postural issues
  • Jaw alignment exercises
  • Manual disc alignment
  • Mouth and jaw massage
  • Manual therapy
  • Functional therapy for facial muscles
  • DNS (Dynamic Neuromuscular Stabilization)
  • ESWT (Extracorporeal Shock Wave Therapy)
  • Cold laser treatment

Dental intervention may be included as part of your treatment plan if tooth misalignment is thought to play a role in your TMD. However, dental issues are rarely the root cause of TMD.

TMD Treatment in NYC

If you suffer from chronic jaw pain, locking, popping or other symptoms of TMD, physical therapy is the fastest route to recovery. The jaw pain specialists at NYDNRehab use the latest technologies and cutting edge therapies to treat TMD. Contact NYDNRehab today, and resolve your TMJ so you can enjoy eating, talking and living without the pain and discomfort of TMD.


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