The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is a crucial hinge that keeps your jawbone connected to your skull. Because of the importance of this joint in everyday activities like talking and eating, maintaining TMJ health is essential. Problems in the TMJ can lead to pain and stiffness spreading out from the jaw. When you experience TMJ dysfunction, you might feel neck pain and headaches. You may also have difficulty moving your jaw up and down without pain. To address TMJ dysfunction, it is crucial to understand the central factors of the condition. These include TMJ trigger points.
What are TMJ trigger points?
TMJ trigger points are often a main cause of TMJ pain. Sometimes referred to as muscle knots, TMJ trigger points are tight and sensitive muscles around the jaw. Muscle hypertension can also happen in many other places around the body, leading to pain and stiffness. In the context of TMJ pain, the muscles to look out for are the ones responsible for jaw function. These muscle knots can be a major source of pain and discomfort until they are treated. Trigger point pain tends to manifest in the jaw, neck and head. These regions may be tender to the touch while you are in pain.
To relieve your TMJ pain, releasing your TMJ trigger points can be an effective solution. Alleviating tension in the area can allow your jaw to move freely and without chronic pain. Physical therapy can play a vital role in managing TMJ symptoms and releasing muscle knots to provide lasting relief. As a holistic approach to health, physical therapy includes a range of top treatment methods. Your physical therapist can develop a tailored treatment plan that integrates top solutions to reduce your pain and restore jaw function.
How to release TMJ trigger points
- Active release therapy — Looking for a hands-on treatment to release your muscle knots? Manual therapy is an umbrella term for PT techniques where a physical therapist uses their hands to treat patient conditions. By applying targeted pressure and promoting circulation in affected areas, manual therapy is great for boosting recovery time and alleviating pain. When it comes to releasing TMJ trigger points, one highly effective manual therapy technique called active release therapy can be beneficial. Active release therapy is a form of myofascial release, meaning a physical therapist applies continuous gentle pressure to the hardened knot tissue. This pressure works to release tension and help the tissue become more elastic again.
- Stretching exercises — Stretching exercises can be a great way to keep tissue throughout your body flexible. With stretches, you can address current muscle tension and prevent tension in the future. Your physical therapist may recommend targeted neck and jaw stretches to gradually release tension in the affected area. Over time, these stretches can improve jaw mobility and reduce your pain.
- Ultrasound — Ultrasound is a physical therapy modality used to treat certain conditions such as TMJ dysfunction. This tool uses sound waves to stimulate deep tissue surrounding the jaw. With ultrasound, a physical therapist can increase blood circulation and reduce painful muscle spasms. According to one study, ultrasound therapy can significantly reduce pain and improve TMJ functionality in people with TMJ dysfunction.
- Self-care — Physical therapy treatments do not need to end when you leave the clinic. With at-home treatments between sessions, you can maintain your recovery progress. These can include heat and cold treatments. A cold compress can alleviate swelling around trigger points. Heat can then boost blood circulation. By applying heat and cold to the affected area as directed by your physical therapist, you can manage your symptoms between sessions.
- TENS — TENS is short for transcutaneous electrical neuromuscular stimulation. This is a technique where low-level electrical currents are applied to the skin over your TMJ trigger points. Clinical studies have shown that TENS can be effective in controlling TMJ pain. By promoting muscle relaxation, this treatment addresses TMJ pain at the source. As a result, it can alleviate your current pain and reduce the chances of recurrence later on.
Lattimore Physical Therapy offers services to help release your TMJ trigger points
TMJ trigger points can be a major source of discomfort. Fortunately, physical therapy treatments can provide relief. At Lattimore Physical Therapy, we are committed to ensuring that each patient receives top-quality care. Our team develops new tailored treatment plans for each patient. This means your treatments will be adjusted to meet your specific needs and priorities. If you are ready to find TMJ pain relief, we are ready to help.
Contact our team today for more information or to schedule an initial appointment.