What Causes Jaw Pain?
by Jeffrey Landram, DPT
AzOPT Buckeye Doctor of Physical Therapy

If you were asked to name all the joints in the human body, odds are you might forget about the joint that allows the jaw to move! This joint is called the temporomandibular joint, or TMJ for short. Although it is not always thought about as a conventional joint, it behaves in a manner similar to all the other joints in the body. It is comprised of two bony surfaces coming into contact with one another, and cartilage in-between to allow for pain-free movement. What makes this joint special is that this cartilage is actually a small disc that moves with your jaw to allow your mouth to open even wider! Unfortunately, the TMJ is also susceptible to many of the same issues individuals experience with other joints.

The TMJ can be affected by tightness and discomfort of the surrounding muscles responsible for chewing. Sometimes the TMJ itself can become tight, which limits the ability of your jaw to completely open. Painful compensations can also occur with the TMJ over a long period, or even the cartilage disc inside the joint could become dislodged! There are a number of other reasons why an individual might experience TMJ pain. If you notice that you have a painful mouth opening or your jaw shifts to one side with mouth opening, then the TMJ joint could be something that needs to be examined.

How Can an AzOPT Physical Therapist Help?

Your physical therapist can help you restore the natural movement of your jaw and decrease your pain. Based on your condition, your therapist will select treatments that will work best for you. Your physical therapist will teach you special “low-load” exercises that don’t exert a lot of pressure on your TMJ, but can strengthen the muscles of the jaw and restore a more natural, pain-free motion.

Can This Injury or Condition Be Prevented?

Maintaining good sitting posture is key to preventing TMJ problems. Your physical therapist will show you how to maintain better posture to prevent future episodes.

If you are experiencing pain while eating, talking, or opening your mouth, then you might be suffering from TMJ related dysfunction. AzOPT physical therapists are qualified to treat this condition, so give us a call and schedule your appointment today so that you can get back to living pain-free!