JAW AND FACE PAIN
Physiotherapy can assist with pain in the jaw & face
Jaw and face pain can be very debilitating. The medical term for jaw and face pain is ‘temporomandibular joint pain’ - sounds like a mouthful, doesn’t it? In fact, temporomandibular joint pain which is also known as TMJ pain, is the pain which is felt in the jaw and/or the muscles which control the movements of the jaw. The focus of this article will be on the available treatment options for jaw and face pain and how physiotherapy can help. However, before looking at this, a brief review of the causes and symptoms is needed. While the exact cause of TMJ pain is not clear, there is evidence to suggest that the following conditions need to be considered.
POSSIBLE CAUSES ARE:
genetics arthritis prior jaw injury grinding or clenching your teeth has also been linked to TMJ pain, although this has not been proven.
TYPICAL SYMPTOMS INCLUDE THE FOLLOWING:
jaw pain/tenderness pain in one or both temporomandibular joints (the hinge-like joints which connect the jawbone to the skull) pain in/around the ears facial pain pain when chewing difficulty with opening/closing the mouth due to locking of the joints. Sometimes the symptoms of jaw and face pain may resolve with time without any treatment. However, if they persist it is important to see your GP to make sure that you have the right diagnosis as certain conditions can occasionally masquerade as TMJ pain. If necessary, your doctor will refer you for a dental X-Ray/CT scan or for a TMJ arthroscopy. Once the diagnosis is confirmed there are a number of treatment options available. It is important to seek treatment early to prevent the condition from becoming chronic. Certain medications, such as analgesic and anti-inflammatories, may help, as well as oral splints.
PHYSIOTHERAPY TREATMENT INCLUDES: 1. Therapeutic ultrasound:
Most likely your physiotherapist will recommend therapeutic ultrasound to reduce the pain and inflammation that arise from jaw and face pain.
2. Drug phoresis:
Occasionally drug phoresis may be used, which allows medications (pain relieving and anti-inflammatory) to be delivered directly to the jaw joint. This means that the medication will not go through the stomach and gut, which in turn leads to lower concentration of the drug and fewer side effects. Results should generally be felt within a few treatment sessions.
3. Specific exercises:
Once the symptoms of jaw and face pain are under control, your physiotherapist will provide you with specific exercises which can be done at home. These
exercises help to improve the TMJ range of motion and strengthen the jaw muscles, which subsequently results in less pain, clicking and locking. In fact, a 2010 study concluded that TMJ exercises speeds up jaw recovery compared to splints. Your physiotherapist will be able to review and modify the exercises accordingly as you go through the recovery process in order to reduce the likelihood of TMJ pain recurrence.
Margarita Gurevich is Senior Physiotherapist and uses Clinical Pilates, SCENAR Therapy & other evidence-based techniques, including Real Time Ultrasound and McKenzie Treatment. Margarita specialises in sports injuries, women’s health (including incontinence) and gastrointestinal issues. Margarita may be contacted via her website.