TMD: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment, Exercises, Tips

Pain in the jaw joint with difficulty in jaw movement, could be related to TMD or Temporomandibular Joint Disorder. If you have been suffering from this or have been diagnosed of such condition, here are a few things that can help you. Accurate information about the condition can help you take the accurate step!

TMD / Temporomandibular Joint Disorder

Temporomandibular Join connects your jaw to the skull and acts like a hinge so that the jaw can move. There are muscles, ligaments and other soft tissue around the joint that keep it in place and allow movement. Sometimes, Temporomandibular Joint or the surrounding structures can get affected resulting in a group of disorders called TMD or Temporomandibular Disorders.

What Causes TMD or Temporomandibular Joint Disorder?

Usually, TMD or Temporomandibular Joint Disorder has many contributing factors, related to the joint itself or to the surrounding soft tissue. Some risk factors that are commonly observed include poor posture, stress, dental malocclusion and teeth grinding or jaw clenching (bruxism) that causes overactivity.

Some Of The Commonest Factors Contributing To TMD Are:

  • Trauma to the muscles or ligaments surrounding the joint.
  • Increased sensitivity to pain.
  • Chronic pain syndromes.

Some Of The Other Painful Disorders Related To TMD Are:

Rarely, some congenital disorders or tumors can also be a cause for TMJ pain.

What Are The Symptoms of TMD or Temporomandibular Joint Disorder?

The primary complaint in TMD is Temporomandibular Joint pain and restricted movement.

Pain- Pain is usually located at the Temporomandibular Joint, around the ear and sometimes extending to the head. Temporomandibular Joint pain can also be felt deep inside the ear, cheeks, extending down to the lower jaw and neck.

Restricted Jaw Movement- The jaw movement gets affected due to the disorder. Pain, too gets aggravated on moving the jaw. Sometimes the jaw joint can felt stuck up with inability to move. There is difficulty in opening the mouth wide causing pain during talking, eating and yawning. Restricted movements make chewing difficult and pain adds to it.

Other Associated Symptoms of TMD or Temporomandibular Joint Disorder

Other associated symptoms include ear pain, noises in the ear or tinnitus, oversensitivity to noise, balance problems or dizziness, neck pain or headache, especially with the use of the joint. Sometimes there can be a feeling of joint locking or catching and clicking or grating sounds in the joint.

How is TMD or Temporomandibular Joint Disorder Diagnosed?

A thorough evaluation from your physician is essential to make a diagnosis and plan an appropriate treatment regimen.

Ideally, the physician would take a detailed history and make a clinical examination to assess your Temporomandibular Joint pain. This would include noting the extent and severity of pain, tenderness, swelling and jaw movement. Further, some investigations like X-rays for dental or bony evaluation, CT scan for studying bony structures or MRI for soft tissue may be advised.

What Are The Treatment Options For TMD?

Management of TMD or Temporomandibular Joint disorders requires a multifaceted approach and you, as a patient can do a lot by offering complete cooperation.

Medical Treatment For TMD- This would include prescribed medicines based on the physician’s diagnosis. Generally, pain relievers, muscle relaxants and sometimes sedatives may be advised. Occasionally, if conservative management does not work, injections or surgical procedures may be considered.

Supportive Therapy For TMD-

Other measures that may be advised by your physician include

Physical Therapy For TMD- Pain, swelling and tensed muscles can be managed by physical treatments like ultrasound, shortwave diathermy or hot and cold compresses. Once the acute pain condition subsides, exercises and other therapeutic activities are advised to relax, stretch and strengthen the muscles.

Occupational Therapy For TMD- If the Temporomandibular Joint pain interferes with your daily activities and occupation, rehabilitation focusing on the same, may be helpful. In case of associated dizziness, vestibular exercises help to regain the sense of balance and other sensory issues.

Counseling- Temporomandibular Joint disorders can be time consuming and emotionally painful too. Health education and counseling about the risk factors, aggravating behaviors can help you in improving your quality of life. Some pain conditions can last for long and need psychological support to deal with it effectively without feeling low.

Supportive Devices For TMD- Depending on your condition, the cause and the extent of your pain, you may be advised some supportive devices, mostly for a short period. Commonly, neck collar is advised if neck muscles are affected and painful. Bite guards or oral splints, inserted over the teeth are advised to avoid clenching of teeth, especially if that is a habit.

Exercises For TMD or Temporomandibular Joint Disorder

Listed below are some of the Jaw exercises that can help with TMD or Temporomandibular Joint disorder. As these exercises vary depending on the cause and extent of Temporomandibular Joint pain, seek medical advice. Some TMD Exercises commonly prescribed are:

  1. Opening and closing of the jaw within normal range without causing pain.
  2. Rolling the tongue- With the teeth touching but not clenching, roll your tongue back to the soft palate. Holding the tongue in this position, try to open and close your mouth.
  3. Opening jaw against pressure- Apply light pressure by placing the thumb under your chin and try to open the jaw. Hold this position for five counts and then relax.
  4. Closing the jaw against pressure- Apply light pressure by holding the chin with your index finger and thumb and try to close the jaw. Hold this position for five counts and then relax.
  5. Moving the jaw sideways as well as front and back. Can hold an ice-cream stick between your teeth while doing this.

Tips To Manage TMD?

Along with all that you do as advised, here are some tips that can help you manage the condition effectively.

Restrict- Avoid overuse of jaw by restricting wide opening of jaw, singing, yelling and wide yawning. Support your jaw while yawning. Avoid activities that cause strain and pain to your facial muscles.

Relax- Most of the complaints aggravate due to physical and emotional tension. Use relaxation techniques to get rid of those stressful situations and instead tackle them efficiently. Follow the rest period as advised.

Implement- Practice prescribed exercises that help to strengthen facial muscles. Apply ice packs and warm compresses to strained areas as advised. Eat soft nutritious foods and sip on healthy drinks. Follow medical advice and watch out for anything that hurts you.

TMJ Disorder and pain can take time to heal. Patience, compliance and vigilance are the greatest support from your side.

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:August 29, 2022

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