Many TMJ disorder patients find that a variety of different treatments are necessary to manage chronic jaw pain. This often involves a multi-disciplinary team approach.
The patient’s initial exam will focus on the determination of loss of function, palpation of various muscle groups, and measuring of jaw opening/side to side. The therapist or doctor will then diagnose and create a treatment plan to regain any loss of function using various modalities.
Treatment modalities may include:
Physical Therapy: The use of physical agents and methods such as massage, therapeutic exercises, cold, heat, hydrotherapy, & electrical stimulation can help patients in restoring function and providing pain relief during TMJ disorder or after TMJ surgery. Also called physiotherapy.
Chiropractic Treatment: Focuses on relieving tension in the muscles around the joints themselvesÑworking both outside and inside the mouth, using massage and trigger point therapy. A trigger point is a very sensitive area made of muscle fibers. Trigger points feel like knots and may cause pain or even a twitching response when pressure is applied to them. A chiropractor can manipulate trigger points in such a way to alleviate the pain associated with them. Sometimes manipulation can make patient’s condition worse, especially if they have arthritis in their TMJÕs.
Massage Therapy: While we have not heard of any completed or active clinical trials on TMJ disorder and massage therapy, we have heard that it is helpful for some patients. We have also heard from patients that describe it as “very painful.”
Acupuncture: There is no specific evidence that points to the effectiveness of acupuncture for the temporomandibular joint disorder. However, recently there was a study that came out explaining that acupuncture was indeed helpful for young patients with chronic illness (Science Daily). It helped ease nausea, fatigue, and other effects of living with a chronic illness. Some TMJ patients have said that acupuncture offers them pain relief. Also, for the most part, it is usually extremely safe.
Lifestyle Changes: Just like our self-care article states, exercise, a healthy diet, and reduced stress can help many TMJD patients to reduce their pain.