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10 TMJ Disorder Tips from a Physical Therapist

Editor’s note: I’m excited to bring you our first guest post on TMJ Hope. We’re always looking for interested patients, professionals, and others to tell their stories. If you would like to guest post on TMJ Hope, please contact me! Without further ado…. our first guest! Cynthia is an experienced physical therapist, and author of the book, “The TMJ Healing Plan: Ten Steps to Relieving Headaches, Neck Pain, and Jaw Disorders.”

TMJ Tips from a Physical Therapist1. Less is Best
I agree with the National Institute of Health (and TMJ Hope!) who say, “Less is often best in treating TMJ Disorders”. You would be wise to explore your safe, conservative, reversible and cost-effective options before making any permanent changes to your bite, undergoing surgery, or spending exorbitant sums of money.
2. Posture
I feel that trying to treat your head, neck and jaw without addressing your posture would be like giving you a car without any tires. If your posture is out of balance or alignment, it can adversely impact your jaw, neck and head. You need to address your posture in sitting, standing and sleeping. My patients with the worst jaw joints are often those who sleep on their stomach or on their side with their hand or arm pressing on their face. Try sleeping on your back. You could benefit from seeing a specialized orthopedic physical therapist to help you evaluate your posture and alignment. Many patients with TMJ Disorders don’t realize they have loose joints and hyperextend their knees. If your joints are loose you need to learn to unlock your knees and protect and stabilize your joints including your jaw.
Read more TMJ tips from Cynthia…
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TMJ Friendly Labor Day Menu

TMJ Friendly Recipes for Labor DayWith Labor Day on Monday, I know many of you will be having parties and cookouts. Often, the food isn’t very jaw pain friendly, and I end up just having a drink or some potato salad. That doesn’t have to be the case, though! Here are some recipes you can cook that everyone will love, but you can eat too.
Salmon is great right now because it is in season. We make it at least once a week in the summer, and I find that the texture is perfect – I don’t really have to chew it, but it still feels substantial… and as an added bonus, it’s high in good fats and protein.
Read on for Grilled Garlic Lemon Herb Salmon and Homemade Banana Pudding!
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Who is TMJ Hope?

I thought it was time that I formally introduce myself. I’m sure that you’ve all wondered… who is TMJ Hope? What follows is part of the story of how TMJ Hope came into existence. I hope over the next few months, together we can turn TMJ Hope into what so many of us have always dreamed of, looked for, and been unable to find…a place you can count on for support, information, and understanding. While there may not be concrete answers and treatments for TMJ disorder yet, there is always hope.
My experience with TMJ disorder began years ago at the age of 12, when I was attacked by a neighbors dog. This resulted in hundreds of stitches in my face and neck. At the time, the damage to my jaw was not apparent and certainly not investigated. The only symptom I had were drop to the ground headaches. The doctors believed they were caused by PTSD (which certainly would have been understandable, but we felt they were from something different). Five years later, the symptoms started to change into more migraine type headaches and jaw pain.
I did rounds with my primary care physician, neurologists, orthodontists, oral surgeons, “facial pain specialists”, physical therapists — you get the picture. Next up was splint therapy — I had an anterior repositioning splint, NTI, soft splint, hard, bottom, top, Mora, Gelb, etc, etc. Other treatments I tried included physical therapy, trigger point injections in the face and mouth, prolotherapy, occlusal adjustment, massage, medications, TENS units, and more splints. New doctor meant a new splint. Any relief of symptoms was unfortunately, temporary.
During all this my symptoms not only escalated, but they changed. I was now having daily migraines, and on a no chew diet. The pain severely impacted my day-to-day life.
An MRI showed interior disc displacement on the left side. The doctor agreed that left TMJ arthrocentesis was necessary. Afterwards, I felt worse and my jaw locked again. I was then fired as a patient because as an oral surgeon he “did not treat pain.”
My next surgeon reread the MRI and found that I actually had bilateral disc displacement without reduction on both sides. The next surgery was a bilateral disc suturing (an open joint arthroplasty). I had a great surgeon and fantastic support from my family, but I had no idea what I was in for. As a computer geek I did my best to research what was out there, but I wasn’t happy with what I could find. Where was the support? I wanted someone to talk to before & throughout the surgery, but it just wasn’t out there. I heard from many other patients, who were looking for the same. They urged me to create something.
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What’s New in TMJ Disorder and Pain Research?

Here’s a list of studies and research related to TMJ disorder that has been published since our last update about the OPPERA TMJ Research and Newsstudy.

  1. Orthodontics for treating temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders – July 2010 – The Cochrane Collaboration – This was a review of the existing studies, trying to establish if braces reduced symptoms in patients with TMJ disorder. In the end, there was not enough data for them to analyze to find answers. Their conclusion: “There is no evidence about the effects of different types of orthodontic braces for problems associated with the joint between the lower jaw and skull.” It also said that there is an “urgent need” for more studies in this area. Link to the Study
  2. Acupuncture for temporomandibular disorders: a systematic review – Spring 2010 – Journal of Orofacial Pain – This a study done by Korean researchers, in which nineteen reports were analyzed to see if acupuncture was effective to treat symptoms of TMJ disorder.  The scientists found that there was “moderate” evidence that acupuncture was effective in treating TMD symptoms. This is good, and seems to point to acupuncture being an option for treatment of TMJ disorder symptoms! Similar to the above study, more research was recommended, including larger sample sizes and longer term studies.  Link to the study.
  3. Read More »What’s New in TMJ Disorder and Pain Research?

What's New in TMJ Disorder and Pain Research?

Here’s a list of studies and research related to TMJ disorder that has been published since our last update about the OPPERA TMJ Research and Newsstudy.

  1. Orthodontics for treating temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders – July 2010 – The Cochrane Collaboration – This was a review of the existing studies, trying to establish if braces reduced symptoms in patients with TMJ disorder. In the end, there was not enough data for them to analyze to find answers. Their conclusion: “There is no evidence about the effects of different types of orthodontic braces for problems associated with the joint between the lower jaw and skull.” It also said that there is an “urgent need” for more studies in this area. Link to the Study
  2. Acupuncture for temporomandibular disorders: a systematic review – Spring 2010 – Journal of Orofacial Pain – This a study done by Korean researchers, in which nineteen reports were analyzed to see if acupuncture was effective to treat symptoms of TMJ disorder.  The scientists found that there was “moderate” evidence that acupuncture was effective in treating TMD symptoms. This is good, and seems to point to acupuncture being an option for treatment of TMJ disorder symptoms! Similar to the above study, more research was recommended, including larger sample sizes and longer term studies.  Link to the study.
  3. Read More »What's New in TMJ Disorder and Pain Research?