Not getting relief in your TMJ treatment? This may be why.

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The treatment of temporomandibular joint (TMJ) pain under the umbrella term of temporomandibular disorder (TMD) is a challenging and difficult symptom to treat. It belongs to the group of chronic facial disorders and affect about 10–15% of the total population with women suffering twice as much as men do.

Sorry ladies!

There are many reasons for TMJ pain, including:

  • Muscle dysfunction, known as myalgia.

  • Mobility restrictions in the mandible

  • Disc dislocation with relocation

  • Osteoarthritis

  • Excessive teeth clenching, which leads to disturbances in local muscle blood flow.

  • Stress

  • Anxiety

  • Upper cervical spine dysfunction (stiffness and/or lack of proper muscle activation)

  • Postural faults, such as with forward head posture leading to poor ergonomics

  • Habits, such as chewing gum.

  • Other dental disorders

Most people suffering from TMJ conditions have a combination of all of the above conditions. The repetitive parafunctional activities results in continuous cycle of pain. We call this central sensitization. There can be many ways to treat TMj, including medications, chiropractic, acupuncture, physical therapy and changing lifestyle habits.

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I have treated TMJ pain for over a decade and found that in some cases that have not responded to typical treatment, the application of dry needling can be highly effective. Specifically, dry needling the lateral pterygoid muscle.

The lateral pterygoid muscle is the only muscle of mastication that assists in depressing the mandible (opening the jaw). Considering its insertion on the disc of the temporomandibular joint, it can have significant implications on ability for you to open your mouth without clicking and pain.

I always assess the lateral pterygoid muscle for proper action and activation during mouth opening with my patients who have TMJ. There are many methods of intervening to assist in this dysfunction, including intra-oral myofascial work and/or dry needling.

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This is not a stand alone treatment and is coupled alongside patient education, ergonomic changes, cervical spine strengthening and/or mobility training. If you are having pain, contact your dentist to see if you are a right candidate for PT services by PhysioFit of North Carolina. Feel free to contact us below too for direct care.