Facial & Temporomandibular Joint Pain

March 19, 2013

Multi-faceted treatments relieve symptoms

According to a study published in 2011, facial or temporomandibular joint pain and muscle disorder (TMJMD) is experienced by 75% of the US population. TMJMD ranks as one of the most commonly occurring conditions resulting in pain and disability, second only to chronic low back pain.

This condition could result from trauma, dental or neurological issues. The clinical symptoms of TMJMD include, but are not limited to, facial pain, difficulty opening the mouth, difficulty chewing, pain and stiffness around the neck, headaches and clicking in the joint. In many instances, TMJ issues can be secondary to systemic disorders like Sceloderma, Lupus and Fibromyalgia.

In physical therapy, TMJMD is treated as a combination of muscular and joint dysfunction. While evaluating a patient with facial pain, not only is the focus on measuring TMJ mobility, but also testing stability of the cervical spine. All muscles of the head and neck impact each other, resulting in this complex condition.

Physical therapists can receive specific training for treating TMJMD. While the patient is on program, the physical therapist works closely with the referring physician, dentist or oral surgeon to design the treatment. Treatment includes myofascial release, trigger point release, joint mobilizations and exercise therapy.

Myofascial release is a soft tissue technique to mobilize layers of skin and fascia in order to improve flexibility. Trigger point therapy is based on releasing points of maximum tenderness in muscles and tendons to relieve pain. Various grades of joint mobilizations are performed by qualified physical therapists to help in jaw opening and closing. And last but not least, an effective exercise program is designed to build head and neck stability. Sometimes, neuromuscular stimulation and TENS are also used as adjuncts to relieve pain and encourage motion.

Helen Hayes Hospital is one of very few facilities in Rockland County which provides this specialized treatment for TMJMD. Skilled physical therapists in the department of Outpatient Orthopedics treat patients one-on-one and provide a customized treatment plan. So help is only a phone call away for facial and TMJ pain. To make an appointment, please call us at 845-786-4177.

Payal Sahni, MPT, MCMT

Outpatient Orthopedic Physical Therapy