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Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Dysfunction

Do you have pain in your jaw with chewing? Do you have a click or pop when you open your mouth? You might be experiencing temporomandibular joint (TMJ) dysfunction.
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The TMJ is also closely connected to the base of our skull and our upper cervical spine, so dysfunction in our jaws can cause headaches, neck pain and more.
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These problems can cause significant pain and lifestyle limitations, making someone think twice about eating that ciabatta roll or even talking. However, there is good news! TMJ dysfunction is a treatable condition with physical therapy.
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Your TMJ is located where your jaw connects to your skull, next to your ear canals. (To find the joints, plug your ears and open your mouth. You should feel the joint moving on your finger.) It is a hinge joint with a disc that helps provide cushion for the joint. Masseter Release Video Demonstration

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There are many ways in which the TMJ can become dysfunctional such as direct trauma, teeth grinding, repetitive gum chewing or nail-biting. Commonly, many of us hold our anxiety and tension in our jaw by clenching our teeth.
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Thankfully, it is similar to many joints in the body! Physical therapy can help alleviate dysfunction with hands-on techniques such as soft tissue mobilization to decrease muscle tension, joint mobilizations to increase joint mobility, and exercises to improve motor control. These techniques ultimately are performed to improve joint positioning, function, and pain levels.
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If you are beginning to notice symptoms or have been struggling with TMJ pain, take charge of your health! Physical therapy is a great place to start and can help you not have to think twice about that slice of deep dish.

-Scott Robin, PT, DPT (Lincoln Park)

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