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TMJ Series---Part 1: What is TMJ?

Three Need to Knows about Jaw Pain

While pain in any form is usually unwelcome, some types are more encompassing than others. With back or knee pain, for example, we can simply decrease how much running we do, or avoid a certain yoga pose.

Jaw pain, on the other hand, presents a more challenging problem. Also known as a temporomandibular disorder (or TMD), it’s a variety of pain that carries much greater impact. This is because pleasures we take for granted – such as eating, laughing, and even just talking – can suddenly become dreaded tasks to be avoided.

The good news? While jaw pain is uncomfortable, it rarely becomes a serious concern. In this series of blog posts we will explore common facts about TMD, exercises which can help in its management and how Gate City Physio can help you get back to your life if you are experiencing TMD.

To begin, here are three important pieces of information about TMD:

1. TMD is very common-

Recent studies show nearly 15% of the population will have jaw pain at some point in their lives. The most likely group to experience TMD? Women between the ages of 25-45 years old.

2. TMD often occurs with Neck Pain or Headaches-

Pain in the neck can often refer to the jaw or the head. This is because the nerves of the face, neck and head all meet at a single point near the brain (specifically, the trigeminocervical nucleus – try saying that 3 times fast!). This makes it likely for jaw pain to be accompanied by symptoms such as dizziness and headache, as well as ear and neck pain.

3. Seek Out A Physical Therapist Who Specializes in Treating Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction

If you’ve experienced any of the above symptoms, there’s plenty of help and hope. Doctors of Physical Therapy are uniquely trained to address both the movement and lifestyle components of TMD. In a 2018 study, researchers evaluated the effects of applying specialized manual physical therapy to the cervical spine (neck) to determine its effects on invasive pain.

The Results?

“Women with TMD reported a significant decrease in orofacial pain and headache impact after 5 weeks of treatment aimed at the upper cervical spine compared to a control group (those who did not receive this treatment).”

Best of all, these results were achieved without the consequences associated with other options such as medications, Botox or surgery.

At Gate City Physio, our treatment will typically include such specialized manual therapy, along with therapeutic exercises. We even take a look at your sleep and stress patterns as part of our interdisciplinary approach.

All the elements of this more comprehensive method collectively cooperate, helping to unload and mobilize the joints. This in turn reduces pressure and pain potential in the jaw. It’s a simple-yet-strategic system that works.

If you are experiencing headaches, jaw or neck pain, please reach out to us to see if your pain has a mechanical component to it. We’re here to help!

Dr. Corey Hillman is a Physical Therapist and owner of Gate City Physio – a boutique physical therapy clinic in Downtown Greensboro. He specializes in helping individuals suffering from jaw pain, headaches and neck pain regain their freedom and get back to enjoying the little things in life.

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