Return To Blog

Your Facial Pain Could Be TMJ Disorder, Learn How Specialized Physical Therapy Can Help


December 20, 2017

Everyone has a TMJ, which stands for temporomandibular joint. This is the joint that connects your jaw to your skull. It runs all the way from the top of your head, down the sides of your face. When there become issues with the TMJ, it can lead to a temporomandibular disorder, known as TMD. This disorder can be painful, and often times, people do not even know all of the symptoms they are experiencing are connected. Over time, there may be different types of pain in the face that can cause a variety of symptoms, from a throbbing pain to ringing in the ears. Learn more about facial pain and when it could be TMD, what you need to know about this disorder and how specialized physical therapy can help.

Types of Facial Pain

When one experiences discomfort around their face, it can be incredibly distracting and painful. Some pain can be from an infection, such as a sinus or salivary gland infection that can lead to a swollen and uncomfortable feeling. One could also experience a deviated septum, which can cause difficulty in breathing. For others, they may experience a nerve injury that can cause a variety of sensations from tingling and numbness, to pain. Another symptom could be a tightness in the temples, pain and soreness in the jaw, or headaches and migraines. While some may not put those symptoms together, they may be connected, and caused by TMD.

When It Could Be TMD

According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research studies, TMJ disorders over 10 million Americans suffer from TMD. TMD brings on a variety of symptoms that one might not connect all together at first. There can be jaw pain, as well as pain and/or swelling around the temples, ears and neck, headaches or migraines, difficulty chewing or a popping noise from the jaw, earaches, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), dizziness, facial stiffness, and more. Since the TMJ connects the jaw to the skill, it has an impact from the top of your head to even parts of your neck.

Talking to Your Doctor

For many, coming to the determination they have TMD can be a long journey, especially since it may take a few opinions from medical or dental professionals to get there. This is why if you recognize some of the key symptoms, it helps to connect the dots and inform your physician. For many, these dots might be connected after seeing many different specialists, such as a doctor for some symptoms, a dentist for jaw pain, or even an ear, nose and throat doctor for ear issues. When talking to your physician about your symptoms, be sure to show them any clicking or popping of your jaw, areas where you experience pain, tightness, or swelling, note any severity of tinnitus, and all other symptoms. With all of these areas connected, you may notice neck or upper back pain, as well. The more you can explain to your doctor, the more options they can help you with for relief or solutions.

Potential Causes for TMD

There are a variety of causes for TMD. Usually, symptoms occur when there is an injury, misalignment, or wear and tear of the jaw, the onset of arthritis, clenching or grinding of the teeth during sleep, or diseases such as gout of fibromyalgia. When there are issues with the actual jaw, this is when people may notice popping or clicking noises when opening and closing the mouth. This can lead to pain around the area that spreads all the way up the jaw line and into the ears. In extreme cases, it can even be difficult for one to open their mouth.

How to Get Relief

For those suffering from TMD, there are options to help cope, manage and even cure any pain. First, you will want to avoid any motions regularly that can flare up the area, such as eating hard foods or chewing gum. Also, take time to be aware of when you are clenching your teeth. While many associate clenching when angry, it is more common throughout the day, especially when concentrating. Be more aware and make an effort to relax the area. You can also use a hot or cold press around the area each day, and massage the area as well. Your dentist can also help you get a mouth guard to wear at night to help with clenching and grinding during sleep. For medication, anti-inflammatory medications, muscle relaxers or painkillers prescribed by a dentist or doctor will help to reduce swelling in the area. Some doctors will even use steroid injections or Botox to help with pain. In extreme cases, surgery may be needed but is usually a last resort.

Specialized Physical Therapy

An additional method to get relief for TMD is seeing a local physical therapist. Since each case of TMD differs patient to patient, it is important to use physical therapy as they will help to create a customized plan. First, they can help introduce you to exercises of the jaw that will help increase range of motion in the area. They can also work with you to correct jaw alignment if things are out of place, and can develop a plan with a series of exercises to reduce any tension in the muscles. If surgery is needed for TMD, a physical therapist is extremely helpful during the recovery process. Most importantly, your physical therapist will develop an understanding of the TMD situation to determine which method is best and will not make symptoms worse.

It is important to recognize signs you have a TMJ disorder and how Denver physical therapy can help. Upon a diagnosis, you should get physical therapy on your radar to help you get relief and develop a plan of recovery. To help you accomplish this, you can count on the experts at Cherry Creek Wellness Center. Our premier physical therapy in Denver for TMJ services will help you get a customized plan for long term relief. To set your appointment, call us today at 303-333-3493.