Temporomandibular joint dysfunction (“TMD”) is a musculoskeletal problem of the jaw generally characterized by jaw pain and clicking and often accompanied by headaches, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), and neck pain. It can be worsened by poor postural habits, grinding/clenching teeth while sleeping or awake, sleep apnea, dental conditions, chewing gum, ice or other dense items, eating foods that require wide jaw opening, stress or psychological trauma, and others. Common treatment options include a bite or night guard, dental care, psychotherapy, physical therapy, and surgery.
Physical therapists evaluate and treat both the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) and the cervical spine (neck). Clinicians begin a course of care by evaluating the neck and jaw to identify patients’ unique presentation and develop customized treatment plans accordingly. During the evaluation process, neck and jaw mobility, strength, jaw opening and closing, airway clearance, surrounding tissue tenderness, muscle and ligament tightness, disc and retrodiscal tissue mechanics, signs of grinding/clenching and posture are assessed.
Physical therapy treatment often involves a combination of manual therapy, exercise, postural training, eating and chewing education, dry needling, and other modalities to address both jaw and neck pain and dysfunction. Physical Therapy is often provided in conjunction with medical management, dental care, and psychotherapy as appropriate. Treatment for TMD can range from weeks to months and is often related to complexity and chronicity of condition.
Patients who are compliant with care including self-management typically appreciate the greatest success. Your dentist, physician, nurse practitioner or physician assistant can refer you to physical therapy.
Dr. Mike Winebrenner is a 1999 graduate of the Bachelor of Science program in Physical Therapy at Daemen College and a 2008 graduate of the Master of Business Administration program from Loyola College in Maryland. He earned his Doctor of Physical Therapy from Widener University in 2009. Mike is Dry Needling, LSVT BIG and Bike Fit certified. Additionally, he has advanced training in temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMD). With a strong background in spine care, his focus is on long term prevention and wellness. Mike’s commitment to exercise and wellness is evident by his active lifestyle, including cycling, fishing, kayaking, hiking and health club exercise.