What is TMJ, and How is it Treated?

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Temporal Mandibular Joint Dysfunction, or TMJ, is a condition that limits jaw function, leading to difficulty with eating, talking and chewing. It can be painful, too.

Symptoms of TMJ can include jaw pain, jaw fatigue, ringing of the ears, dizziness, headache, jaw popping, neck pain, a locking jaw and difficulty opening your mouth. If you’re suffering from any of these, talk to your dentist. Your dentist will send you to your primary care provider if appropriate, who can then refer you to a physical therapist.

A physical therapist can provide treatment for TMJ using manual therapy, stretching and strengthening exercises, ultrasound, ice massage, electrical stimulation and more.

In addition, there are a few things you can do if you suffer from TMJ that may help ease your symptoms.

  • Avoid eating hard or chewy foods.
  • Do not open your jaw too wide.
  • Avoid smoking.
  • Place your computer screen at eye level and keep documents directly in front of you when working on them.
  • Avoid sleeping on your stomach, which forces your neck to rotate in one direction in order to maintain an open airway, increasing stress on your jaw.
  • Avoid repetitive chewing, such as chewing gum.
  • If you’re on the phone for long periods of time, use a headset that allows the neck and jaw to remain in a restful or neutral position.
  • Maintain good oral hygiene and tooth health.

Rob Gallagher, D.P.T., is part of MidMichigan Health’s Rehabilitation Services team in Alpena. He provides physical therapy in his hometown community, and specializes in orthopedics, ankle/foot pain, TMJD, back and knee pain, hip and neck pain and sports therapy. To make an appointment, contact his office at (989) 356-7248.

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