Although it’s an area of the body that doesn’t get discussed as often as, say, the back, disorders of the jaw are actually quite common. These types of issues—which are technically called temporomandibular disorders—affect millions of Americans every year, and usually go on to cause symptoms like headaches and jaw pain in New York City. Fortunately, jaw problems can be effectively addressed with a comprehensive and carefully-designed treatment program from our physical therapy team.
The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is a hinge joint that connects the part of the skull directly in front of the ears (temporal bone) to the lower jaw (mandible). Temporomandibular disorders, or TMDs, is a general term used to describe a variety of conditions that cause pain and dysfunction in the jaw, jaw joint and surrounding facial muscles that control chewing and jaw movement.
TMDs most frequently affect women and those between the ages of 20-40, and the most common sign that a TMD may be present is pain or tenderness in the face, jaw, neck or shoulders. Other symptoms include difficulty opening the mouth wide, locking of the jaw, or a painful clicking, popping or grating when opening and closing the mouth. Some individuals also experience headaches that are very similar to migraines, which results in earaches and pain and pressure behind the eyes. Those who experience these symptoms on top of jaw pain should be aware that their condition might be diagnosed as a straightforward headache, when the problem is actually related to their jaw.
The definite cause of TMDs is still unclear, but some theories suggest they may be due to injury in that region, grinding or clenching teeth, osteoarthritis or stress. Whatever the cause, TMDs and resulting headaches can throw a wrench in the spokes of simply functioning in daily life. Fortunately, our physical therapists can provide treatments to help reduce symptoms like jaw pain in New York City. Management for TMDs usually consists of the following components:
Treating TMD-related headaches and jaw pain in New York City
- Both heat and ice therapy are typically used to improve circulation, reduce swelling, and relieve pain
- Focused training will also be given to improve posture and correct jaw alignment
- Your physical therapist will massage the jaw to relieve muscle tension
- Patients will be instructed to perform specific movements of the TMJ to release scar tissue that restricts muscle movement and to improve range of motion
- Ultrasound therapy, which uses high-frequency sound waves directed to the TMJ, may also be used to reduce pain and swelling, and improve circulation
- In some cases, acupuncture may be used to bring about greater pain reductions
You may not hear about TMDs all that often, but if you happen to experience one, you will quickly find out how frustrating it can be to have pain in your jaw and head. So if you’ve noticed any symptoms that suggest a TMD, it’s best to see us at Dynamic Sports Physical Therapy in New York City for an evaluation. Contact us at 212-317-8303 to schedule an appointment today, or click here for more information on TMDs.