When you have a cavity, you visit the Dentist. When you twist your ankle, you visit a Physiotherapist. But if you experience jaw pain, headaches, and hear clicking and popping when you open your mouth, who should you turn to?
An Osteopath who specializes in TMJ disorder treatment.
Temporomandibular joint dysfunction (also known as TMJ) has become a lot more common these days. But since it’s a condition that develops slowly over time, it can be difficult to figure out when it’s time to seek help. Luckily, when you visit an expert like Jessica Bonzon, our Osteopath, she’ll provide comprehensive treatment no matter what stage you’re at. “TMJ is an area I’m very passionate about and specialize in treating,” she says.
We recently sat down with Jessica to learn the basics of TMJ disorders, which you can learn about here. In today’s blog post, we’ll be diving a little bit deeper and exploring how she treats TMJ disorders so you can live a healthier, pain-free life (with better posture, of course!)
But first, here’s a quick recap so you can brush up on your knowledge.
What is TMJ Disorder?
"TMJ stands for temporomandibular joint,” Jessica explains. “It’s the joint that connects your lower jaw to your skull.”
This complex joint allows us to open and close our jaw for things like talking, chewing, and eating. We have two TMJs on either side of our head, right in front of our ears. It’s important for all the ligaments, discs, and structures surrounding the TMJ joints to connect properly and work together in unison. When something isn’t moving the way it should be – which often results in pain – this is referred to as TMJ disorder.
“TMJ disorders are usually a combination of factors,” she says. “It can include things like stress, grinding and clenching the teeth, poor posture and work ergonomics, tongue posture, poor breathing, and a traumatic injury like whiplash or concussion.”
She adds that a TMJ disorder isn’t just something you’ll wake up with one day. It can take several years to develop, which is why early intervention is key. As soon as you start noticing TMJ disorder symptoms, you should act on them quickly and seek treatment from an Osteopath.
TMJ Disorder Symptoms
The most common symptoms of TMJ disorder, according to Jess, include:
- Jaw, facial, or ear pain.
- Restricted jaw movement.
- Hearing a clicking or popping sound from your jaw.
- Clenching or grinding your teeth (something a dentist can help identify).
- Headaches and/or neck pain.
“If you have chronic neck pain, it’s possible that you have a TMJ disorder because the neck and jaw structures are very tightly connected,” she adds. A key attribute of Osteopaths is that they consider how all areas of the body work together. If you deal with pain in a particular area, they'll also assess other parts of your body to determine the true underlying root cause. Let’s take a look at how TMJ disorders are treated at HealthOne.
TMJ Disorder Treatment
There are three main stages to TMJ disorder treatment: assessment, treatment plan, and post-treatment maintenance. Here is a breakdown of what happens during each.
Part 1: Assessment.
If you think you might be dealing with a TMJ disorder, Jessica will first do a complete assessment to properly diagnose your condition. She’ll use her hands to assess the placement of your entire spine, pelvis, and jaw. “Because we’re a very holistic profession, we believe that imbalances in these areas may contribute to an imbalanced TMJ. It’s really important to ensure that the jaw is in an ideal position, and in balance with the rest of the body, to get rid of TMJ symptoms sustainably.”
In some cases, patients aren’t aware that they might have a TMJ disorder. They might visit their family doctor for neck pain, or even discover the possibility during a trip to the dentist. At HealthOne, many of our practitioners are skilled at identifying dysfunctions related to the jaw. If they suspect you might have TMJ disorder, they’ll refer you to our Osteopath for a proper assessment.
Once she has taken a look at your body and any imbalances, Jessica will map out a treatment plan for you.
Part 2: Treatment.
Everything Jessica does in her practice is entirely hands-on. You won’t find any acupuncture needles or fancy gadgets in her office (although we have other Rehab professionals who do use those modalities if you’re curious to try them out!).
Her treatment for your TMJ disorder will include:
- Joint mobilizations. This involves gently moving certain parts of your body to improve mobility.
- Soft tissue release. This involves stretching certain parts of the body to relieve tension.
- Craniosacral therapy. This helps to release restrictions in the skull and relieve stress-related symptoms.
Most patients will feel relief from their symptoms after only one visit. For long-lasting results, though, Jessica usually recommends that her patients come in for follow-up treatments. “That’s because we’re all constantly using our jaw to eat, talk, yawn – and on top of that, things like clenching, grinding, and biting your nails can slow down the process a little bit. That’s why I usually recommend 3-5 treatments and I never see my patients more than once a week.”
Part 3: At-Home Maintenance.
So, does the journey end once you leave our Rehab clinic? Not quite. An equally important part of TMJ treatment is the at-home exercise you do as prescribed by Jessica.
“I always give my patients exercises to relax and strengthen the jaw muscles. Those can be really effective for pain relief and to improve jaw movement,” she says.
Our Rehab team uses Physi Track, a convenient platform available on web browsers and mobile devices, to create customized exercise plans. The stretching and strengthening exercises will each have a detailed video explaining how to do it, written steps, and the prescribed number of sets and reps.
It’s a win-win because it keeps you motivated during treatment and helps you recover while preventing the disorder from getting worse. In most scenarios, this 3-prong approach including assessment, treatment, and at-home maintenance is able to resolve TMJ disorder symptoms.
TMJ Disorder Toronto
If you’re looking for TMJ disorder treatment in Toronto, you’ve come to the right place! One of the best professionals you can visit is an Osteopath who specializes in diagnosing and treating them.
When you visit HealthOne, you also have access to a variety of other Rehab professionals who can support your recovery even further.
If the main cause of your TMJ disorder is clenching and grinding, for example, we have a Dentist in our clinic who can prescribe you a nightguard to alleviate those symptoms. Another form of pain relief is Botox in the masseter muscles, which our Nurse Injectors at our MediSpa & Skin Clinic are skilled in providing.
“That collaboration between different professionals is so valuable to help our patients in the most effective way,” Jessica concludes. “We’re all one big team that wants to help the patients. From manual therapy and osteopathy to injections, do whatever is best for you – just remember you’re not alone and there are treatment options out there.”
Click here to book an appointment with Jessica Bonzon, our Osteopath at HealthOne.
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