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Published on April 03, 2012

CKHS Offers Rehabilitative Services for Jaw Joint Disorders

In Brief

  • CKHS offers services to combat temporomandibular dysfunction (TMD), a painful disorder of the jaw.
  • These disorders are caused by many factors, including clenching of teeth, mandibular instability, poor posture and changes in head and neck posture.
  • A variety of treatment techniques have been shown to effectively treat TMD. These include ultrasound, moist heat, ice, hands-on joint and soft tissue mobilization, as well as stretching and strengthening exercises to address muscular imbalances.

If you are faced with a problem that involves the mouth or jaw, you may not know where to turn. After a visit to a local dentist or doctor’s office, and news of a jaw joint disorder, you may be prescribed further treatment to combat temporomandibular dysfunction (TMD).

This is where Crozer-Keystone Health System can help. CKHS offers services to combat this painful disorder affecting the jaw.

“This was a population that we felt was underserved,” says Renee Crossman, physical therapy supervisor at Springfield Hospital. “And we wanted to increase awareness about our services to patients.”

TMD disorders are caused by a complexity of issues regarding the temporomandibular joint; one of the most frequently used joints in the body. It is located where the upper jaw and lower jaw meet, and is used in daily actions such as talking, yawning and chewing.

The problem is caused by various, often unsuspected, factors. Microtrauma, such as clenching of the teeth, mandibular instability and poor posture, may cause TMD disorders. Bruxism, or grinding the teeth, especially at night may also be responsible for TMD problems – a mouthguard may be helpful to alleviate this problem. Results from macrotauma, including trauma to the jaw or chin, molar extraction, or whiplash, could cause TMD. In fact, changes in head and neck posture may have an immediate effect on mandibular movement as well.

There is an intimate relationship between the neck and the temporomandibular joint. Often, patients with TMD disorders have undiagnosed neck disorders that may require treatment as well. Treatment of the neck disorder can have a positive effect on the problem.

TMD disorders are accompanied by a variety of symptoms. One of the most common side effects is jaw pain, which is experienced upon opening or closing the jaw. Exposure to air-conditioned or cold air may also cause clenching of the jaw, adding increased pain. Grinding, popping, or other sounds may be associated with a jaw disorder, as well as headaches, ear pain, pressure in the ears, sensitivity around the ears, and difficulty eating, among others.

“Many people with these types of disorders may have trouble opening and closing their mouths fully, which can interfere with eating or chewing,” says David Ong, supervisor of Outpatient Physical Therapy at DCMH.

While TMD may affect both genders at all ages, females are four times more likely to suffer from TMD than males. About 25 percent of the general population report symptoms of TMD with 10 percent of those individuals reporting severe to chronic pain. Generally, those suffering from TMD range in age from 20 to 50 years old.

A variety of treatment techniques have been shown to effectively treat TMD disorders, all of which are offered at CKHS sites. Treatment options include ultrasound, moist heat, ice, hands-on joint and soft tissue mobilization, as well as stretching and strengthening exercises to address muscular imbalances.

All the joints in the body, including temporomandibular joint, contain cartilage. This cartilage serves as a shock absorber. Displacement of the cartilage in this joint can cause the jaw to lock. In this case, treatment requires passive, skilled movement of the joint ― called joint mobilization.

“We have seen a lot of functional improvement in terms of our patients’ ability to eat, sleep and even sing with significantly less pain,” says Maureen Fleagle, senior physical therapist at Springfield Hospital.

“Prompt care can facilitate pain reduction and prevent a worsening of symptoms,” Crossman says. “We want people to know that we can help them get back to their daily lives and activities. That’s a true benefit.”

Fred D’Alessandro, physical therapist at Crozer, agrees. “Our patients often tell us their quality of life has significantly improved,” he says.

To find a physical therapist who is right for you, call 1-877-CK-MOTION (1-877-256-6846).

 

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