The question do I need therapy for my TMJ is extremely relevant, and certain patients may benefit from therapeutic treatments. This is especially true for patients who are suffering from musculoskeletal pain which is where TMJ has affected their neck and shoulders. Physical therapy treatments available include ultrasound, hot or cold compresses, massage, exercises, acupuncture and electrical muscle stimulation from a TENS machine. Another therapy commonly used to treat TMJ is biofeedback.
Ultrasound treatment uses deep heat applied to the temporomandibular joint to ease soreness and increase mobility.
Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS)
This treatment uses low-level electrical currents to relax the muscles of the jaw and face. Some people find this very effective at relieving the pain, and this treatment can be given at the dental office or through using a TENS machine at home.
Some people find acupuncture helpful for pain relief, and it is a relatively non-invasive and safe treatment.
Massage and hot and cold compresses
Gently massaging the affected area helps to relieve the pain and stimulates the circulation of blood, helping the area to heal. Using hot and cold compresses also helps to relax the muscles and stimulate circulation.
Exercising your jaw and facial muscles
Gently exercising your jaw and facial muscles can also be therapeutic, and it’s best to do this after applying hot or cold compresses. This is because of this therapy helps to relax the muscles making them more able to stretch. Your dentist will be able to recommend some simple exercises that can be done several times a day.
Biofeedback can be a very effective therapy for treating TMJ as it teaches you how to control muscle movements that are normally involuntary. The treatment involves having sensors attached to your facial muscles that will alert you each time those muscles go into spasm or clench.
The alert is normally audible and the tone will depend upon the degree of tension in your muscles. The therapist will show you relaxation techniques for these muscles and you will hear the audible tone change as your muscles relax. In time you will be able to intentionally relax your facial muscles even when not connected to the biofeedback machine.
The reason this treatment is so effective is that that TMJ is often a result of bruxism, and this teeth grinding habit is frequently stress-related, or as a result of a sleep disorder, or due to medication. As a result many people find learning how to intentionally relax the muscles very helpful.
Living with TMJ
Although TMJ is not curable it can be managed. It’s important to get a proper diagnosis as early as possible so that any damage to the temporomandibular joint is minimized. Treatment is generally conservative and non-invasive, and it’s very likely that your dentist will recommend wearing a mouth guard. Some people find that wearing a mouth guard is enough to relieve the discomfort. This is because it enables the temporomandibular joint to heal as the loading to the joint is reduced. Using therapy in conjunction with a mouth guard can help to keep this condition under control with the choice of therapy being down to individual preference.