Are you having pain or tenderness at your jaw, aching pain in or around your ear, or having difficulty opening or closing your mouth? These symptoms may be associated with temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder, better known as TMJ.
The bones within the temporomandibular joint are covered in cartilage and separated by a small disc that allows the joint to function smoothly. However, when TMJ disorder occurs the disk within the joint may have eroded or moved out of place, the joint’s cartilage may be damaged due to arthritis, or the joint may have been damaged due to an impact-related injury.
Now how exactly can you make this pain go away? There are numerous ways to alleviate this pain, including TMJ physical therapy, use of medications, or lifestyle changes but be sure to consult with your doctor prior to starting any treatment.
The stretching and strengthening of your jaw muscles are crucial with TMJ disorder. This is why it is important to be seen by a physical therapist so that the natural movement of your jaw can be restored and the pain be decreased. Physical therapy has numerous treatment options for TMJ disorder including manual therapy to stretch the jaw and increase muscle flexibility and strength or posture education as poor posture is a common cause of TMJ disorder. Specialized pain treatments may also be offered to you depending on the severity of your case. These specialized treatments may include electrical stimulation or ultrasound therapy.
First, it is important to consult with your doctor to determine if medications are appropriate for your current health conditions and medication regimen. When speaking with your doctor, he or she may recommend the following medications to help treat your TMJ disorder.
Generally, the first medication recommended will be an over-the-counter pain medication that focuses on reducing inflammation or swelling. These medications may include acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or naproxen to name a few.
If you find that OTC medications aren’t relieving the pain, your doctor may prescribe a prescription-strength pain reliever or muscle relaxant. Muscle relaxants are generally used for a short-term period to reduce muscle spasms which are one of the primary causes of pain. Lastly, tricyclic antidepressants, which are primarily used for depression, can also be used to treat TMJ pain by influencing how your body interprets pain.
The clenching of your jaw or tension on your jaw muscles can exacerbate your pain or cause it to occur more frequently. This is why it is advised to become aware of your tension-related habits such as gum chewing.
If you want your pain to lessen, you should focus on eating soft foods, cutting foods into smaller pieces, and avoid chewing gum or overly chewy food. You can also perform stretches and massage your jaw muscles to relax these muscles. Another recommendation that may reduce your symptoms is applying a warm compress or ice to the side of your face in the area of pain.
If you are having symptoms of TMJ disorder, one of these methods of relief may provide you pain relief. However, there are also other treatments for TMJ disorder such as acupuncture, biofeedback, and as a last-ditch effort, surgery. Consult with your doctor to determine the most appropriate treatment plan for you.