PT for the Jaw?

One of the most common questions I have received from patients is, “Can Physical Therapy help my jaw pain?” The short answer is YES! The second question that shortly follows is, “How?” This answer is longer and not as easy to answer.

Patients come to Freedom PT uncertain of what PT can do to help them with their concerns. Most times they saw their dentist or oral health provider for concerns about their teeth or jaw and were told to see a TMD PT after their appointment.

What PT can do

Physical therapy helps in many ways to assess and treat temporomandibular function. This article focuses on the broad picture and desired outcomes we have as therapists to help patients become pain-free and enjoy more freedom in their lives. During the first session, there is a subjective interview and conversation with the patient to learn how their injury occurred, give context to the nature of the injury, as well as, what their specific goals are in regaining function.

From here, we do a physical assessment, which includes but is not limited to a cervical, shoulder, and jaw range of motion assessment, as well as strength testing of the upper quadrant to establish a baseline. I also like to look at patients in a static,non-moving position, as well as, a dynamic, moving position to see if there are any changes when they begin to move. Depending on the outcomes of the general motion and strength assessment, I will continue asking questions regarding sleep, eating, and work habits to piece more of the patient’s environmental factors into the puzzle. I also look at the joint mechanics of the jaw and cervical spine and how it moves with both passive and active motion.

Did Your Dentist Make You a Device?

Depending on the joint assessment, this may also lead to an assessment of any appliance the patient may/may not be using at night. My goal with a physical therapy evaluation for any body part, but specifically the jaw, is to help alleviate the pain the patient has come into the clinic with as fast and as efficiently as possible. From here, we aim to treat the contributing factors to allow the patient to have long-lasting pain relief.

Continued Work on the Jaw

Each patient yields different findings, but typically what we see in the clinic is patients have restrictions in musculature in both the face and the neck that are impacting their pain levels. Physical therapy allows us to mobilize to loosen and strengthen around these areas to support the new position we are trying to achieve. Each session we work with the patient to improve how the jaw moves, both passively and actively, to create improved pain-free movement patterns.

Physical therapy is a great option for individuals who are suffering from jaw pain or headaches. It is a minimally invasive, non-medication option that helps to reduce pain and improve function. If anyone has any questions or concerns, please reach out to one of our 4 locations today to see a TMD specialist!

Joe has a passion for treating the overhead athlete and ensuring safe movement patterns for these individuals. He spends his off time coaching and working with baseball athletes through STiKS Baseball Academy in Waukesha. He also coaches the varsity baseball team at Catholic Memorial High School in Waukesha.