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Published on Jul 18, 2015
When you think about joints breaking down, you rarely consider the joints in your jaw.
“It’s a joint much like any other joint in your body that has fluid inside and cartilage, but this joint controls the opening and closing of the mouth and the side-to-side movements of the mouth,” says Kath Kinross.
Kath Kinross is a physical therapist with Lee Memorial Health System. She treats people who are down in the mouth.
“We often say ‘I have TMJ,’ meaning I have pain in that joint. Right here but also can often be pain in the neck and headaches,” says Kinross. It’s the temporomandibular joint, or TMJ, that becomes inflamed. Common reasons are poor posture, stress, arthritis, injury, even overuse. “From little habits that we have like biting our nails, chewing on pencils, chewing gum a lot can cause problems,” says Kinross.
Allison Joslin found frequent clicking in her jaw signaled an issue with her cartilage. “I chewed gum a lot more than I probably should have, which is part of the reason that I think I’ve irritated it and I clinched my jaw when I sleep,” says Joslin. TMJ doesn’t have to be a jaw breaker. If recognized early, physical therapy may be enough. Through a series of guided exercises, patients learn to alleviate their symptoms.
“If we can kind of help settle inflammation, improve posture, and help restore normal movement again, then very often that can actually help relieve the pain,” says Kinross. “Because I clench my jaw, those muscles there like to be tight. So one of them helps me relax those muscles and then the other one helps with posture,” says Joslin.
Therapy is well-suited for TMJ that is not dental related. A few simple changes may help people say goodbye to an old headache.
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Lee Memorial Health System in Fort Myers, FL is the largest network of medical care facilities in Southwest Florida and is highly respected for its expertise, innovation and quality of care. For nearly a century, we’ve been providing our community with everything from primary care treatment to highly specialized care services and robotic assisted surgeries.