Physical Therapy/Jaw Exercises
Most patients I treat have problems involving the muscles used for chewing and the temporomandibular joint (jaw joint). Treatment usually involves jaw massage and jaw stretching exercise to promote healing of the muscles and joint. Simple jaw exercises are done frequently throughout the day; they are easily done at home or at work. Stretching the muscles is the opposite of clenching; it helps to get the muscles limber and back to normal. The temporomandibular joint has great potential to heal even when there is a disc displacement. By stretching the joint gently the repair process is activated and the joint starts to heal and range of motion increases.
Sometimes a referral to a physical therapist is appropriate. There are two types of patients that I routinely refer to a physical therapist, those with decreased range of jaw movement and those with pain problems that extend beyond the jaw. Many patients have problems that involve the neck and shoulders.
Physical therapists have advanced degrees in rehabilitation, either a masters or doctorate. They employ a variety of modalities including manual manipulation, electric stimulation, ultrasound, application of heat or cold to sore areas, and most importantly prescribing the right type of exercises to be done at home to promote healing. They also will want to examine how you sit at work, the placement of your computer and phone and many other factors that may be exacerbating the problem.
The physical therapists that I refer to have advanced training and special interest in temporomandibular disorders.