Difficulty chewing your food. Problems opening your mouth to drink. Jaw pain that keeps you up at night. These are all symptoms that can be caused by temporomandibular joint (TMJ) dysfunction.
TMJ dysfunction is a group of conditions that affect the jaw joint and the muscles that control it. It’s also a surprisingly common issue. Medical researchers estimate that between 5% and 12% of the global population have a TMJ issue. Physical therapy is one option that can help treat TMJ dysfunction, and a qualified physical therapist can show you how to do several exercises designed to reduce your pain and strengthen your jaw.
- Relaxed jaw exercise
It’s important to stretch the jaw muscles before doing any strengthening exercises, and a stretch that can be included in your TMJ dysfunction physical therapy plan is the relaxed jaw exercise. This exercise is popular because it’s gentle on your jaw, yet it can also provide an excellent stretch for tense and painful jaw muscles.
How to perform the relaxed jaw exercise
- Place your teeth together lightly.
- Touch the roof of your mouth just behind your upper teeth with your tongue.
- Slowly let your mouth fall open while your tongue touches the roof of your mouth.
- Hold this stretch for five to 10 seconds.
- Close your mouth, and then repeat the steps until you’ve stretched your jaw three times.
- Resisted lateral movement exercise
Another physical therapy exercise that’s often used to treat TMJ dysfunction is the resisted lateral movement exercise. This exercise is designed to strengthen the muscles that move your jaw from side to side. In turn, the stronger muscles can provide added support to your jaw joints.
How to perform the resisted lateral movement exercise
- Close your mouth, but not so far that your teeth are touching.
- Place your left index and middle fingers on the left side of your jaw.
- Move your jaw as far to the left as you can, and press lightly with your fingers as you do so.
- Hold this position for two or three seconds.
- Slowly return your jaw to the starting position, and repeat these steps until you’ve done 10 repetitions.
- Then, switch hands and do 10 more repetitions of the exercise while moving your jaw to the right.
Armor Physical Therapy can show you effective TMJ exercises and therapy methods
Physical therapy for TMJ dysfunction isn’t limited to jaw exercises. At Armor Physical Therapy, our team offers many treatment options for the symptoms of TMJ dysfunction. Our physical therapists can confirm if you have this condition with a complimentary screening. Then, we can build you a personalized therapy plan that could include jaw exercises and therapy methods like:
- Joint mobilization
- Instrument-assisted soft tissue mobilization (IASTM)
- Myofascial release
- At-home care
- Virtual therapy
Contact us today for more information about our TMJ dysfunction treatment options or to schedule an initial appointment.