Have you ever experienced jaw pain or clicking? How about the inability to close your mouth normally? Neck pain and shoulder pain? Headaches? Many people suffer from all kinds of pain in the face, head, neck and shoulders without knowing what might be causing it. Did you know researchers have found that over 75% of all the pain felt in the head, neck and face is muscle-related? Such pain symptoms may have been mysterious in the past but it is now a known condition termed as TMJ or temporomandibular joint. The cause of TMD is not clear, but dentists believe that symptoms arise from problems with the muscles of the jaw or with the parts of the joint itself. Injury to the jaw, temporomandibular joint, or muscles of the head and neck – such as from a heavy blow or whiplash – can cause TMD. Other possible causes include:
- Grinding or clenching the teeth, which puts a lot of pressure on the TMJ
- Dislocation of the soft cushion or disc between the ball and socket
- Presence of osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis in the TMJ
- Stress, which can cause a person to tighten facial and jaw muscles or clench the teethTwo years ago I experienced severe pain as my jaw was locked in the open position. What was I doing before this occurred; I was laughing at a friend’s joke and happened to sneeze at the same time….. WHAM, instant pain. Luckily for me, I happened to be a past patient of TheraCORE’s and remembered they offer complementary injury screenings without a prescription from a doctor. After calling the clinic the next morning, I was asked to come in so they could evaluate my injury and help alleviate the pain. Heated ultrasound, massage, and The Graston Technique® were performed on my neck and jaw to help release the tightened muscles that were preventing my jaw from closing. It was explained to me how physical therapy could be beneficial to help diminish my symptoms and release my jaw from its locked position. They explained the process of faxing over a formal injury screening that explains their findings and a recommended treatment plan to my primary care physician or dentist. This process was quick and I was able to start PT just a few days later.At the conclusion of my PT visits, I was pain free. I was provided with helpful tips that will help keep TMJ symptoms at bay. These included:
- Avoid chewing gum or candy
- Cut large/hard fruits or vegetables into bite size pieces, i.e. apples, pears, carrots, celery, etc.
- Avoid eating anything that requires my jaw to open greater than an inch, cut into smaller bites
I’m not perfect and occasionally I find myself chewing a piece of gum out of habit, but I have been educated on my condition and have been given home exercises that will help prevent a severe relapse in the future.
Amylynn Kucera, Office Manager – Westmont Clinic