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Overcoming Jaw and Face Pain


Myofacial pain and Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction (TMD) continues to affect an astounding number of people each year. TMD is often a multifactorial problem that can be difficult to overcome with compounding areas of pain, emotional involvement, and other medical complicating factors. Manual-based physical therapists, in partnership with dentists, are in a unique position to successfully manage and provide positive outcomes for patients dealing with TMD or Myofacial pain.

Medical literature reveals that orofacial pain is a product of pain receptors that extend from the neck and facial region into the subnucleus of the brain that also houses important cranial nerves. Due to the close relationship of these pain receptors in the facial region and neck, it is evident that pain and impairments at the cervical region can affect the facial region. With this in mind, it is imperative that those patients dealing with pain in the facial region or TMD are evaluated and treated with a well-rounded approach and careful consideration of the upper spine.

Poor upper body positioning is also closely-related to pain of the jaw and upper spine. Faulty mechanical positioning of the jaw causes increased stress and trigger points in the muscles that are responsible for movements of the jaw. These trigger points or areas of tightness can cause referred pain into the facial region and can also lead to associated headaches. Research shows that patients with headaches present with a more forward head posture as well as poor strength and endurance of the deep neck flexor musculature.

Physical therapy treatment, with the use of manual therapy, has been shown to provide relief of TMD and associated facial pain. Though injections to the affected tissue and joints have been shown to help, they cannot change the biomechanical problems related to poor posture and muscle impairments. Research supports that 90% of patients have relief from conservative, manual-based physical therapy.

At PT Solutions, we first provide a careful assessment of the musculature and joints involved in the jaw and neck. We implement effective treatment including joint mobilization, myofascial techniques, dry needling and therapeutic exercises to help improve overall posture of the upper body. PT Solutions therapist are trained and certified in Dry Needling. Dry needling assists in disrupting the release of intracellular potassium and can play an important role in reducing muscle spasm and trigger point in the involved musculature. Overall, in conjunction with a dentist, PT Solutions physical therapy has been successful in the treatment of TMD and orofacial pain.

This article was featured in the Douglas County Sentinel.

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