Dr. Samantha TMJ: January 2021 Newsletter

TMD & Vestibular Physical Therapy

Hi friends! Happy New Year! Let’s make 2021 better than 2020 shall we? I hope you remember the highlights of last year though! As it was a memorable one for us all, but I’m hoping you have renewed feelings of hope and perseverance as we start off this year.

2020 brought an influx of jaw/headache and neck tension patients for me likely influenced by an increase in stress. So I’m kicking it up a notch this year to provide more valuable content and education for you guys! I’m really focusing on building up my educational content on my TMJ instagram account: @DrSamanthaTMJ and plan to start adding free blogs to my website: drsamanthatmj.com. If you have questions or are interested in learning more, you can email me at: samantha@drsamanthatmj.com. There’s also tons of valuable learning material to get you better acquainted with TMJD in my eBook: Top 5 Exercises for Jaw Pain Management

TMJ tid-bit

What is the clicking/popping?

Why does my jaw click and pop?

The clicking sound is usually due to movement of the fibrocartilaginous disc that sits in between the bones of the TMJ. It naturally moves and glides forward with mouth opening, however dysfunction arises when it slips out of our place (most often gets stuck forward). This can occur at varying degrees where it can slip in and out, or stay slipped out, which is why sometimes you hear more than one click with opening/closing as the disc is clicking in/out of place.

You can have mild clicking in your TMJ that is otherwise benign. It may be annoying, but if it is stable and nonpainful, you can go about our life without paying too much attention to it. Is it “normal” for the joint to do this? Not necessarily, however just like any other joint that my click and pop, there are many natural reasons for this such as hypermobility/ligament laxity or natural degeneration over time. 

The click and pop can develop further though, into something we call a disc dysfunction. The clicking becomes an issue when that disc is too far out of place and is now either causing pain or is affecting the movements of your jaw, or both.

Therefore, at the end of the day, it is always good to do preventative work. I always recommend getting screened by a trained practitioner to determine the extent of your potential disc displacement. Often without imaging, the severity of your disc displacement and the best course of action can be discerned with a thorough physical therapy examination. 

If your clicking is painful and/or you notice your jaw has started deviating to the side, then it is highly recommended that you be evaluated be a TMJ specialist.

Mental health

Although I am a physical therapist, I see day in and out how much mental and emotional health plays into your physical presentation. I love breaking the stigma that surrounds mental health and encourage methods to improve your mental state, including talking to a licensed professional. Outside of that, there are many other daily tools you can implement to reduce stress and increase feelings of peace and joy. This is especially important in the TMJ community as many symptoms and parafunctional habits such as clenching/grinding are driven by stress. Not to mention, your myofascial system is highly sensitive to your emotional state, so increased psychological stress and tension can often be felt in your muscles. 

As part of a comprehensive TMD treatment, addressing lifestyle factors that are contributing to the origin of a patient's symptoms is extremely valuable. It is important that we gently draw awareness to these factors and implement appropriate techniques for better management, i.e. breathing and other relaxation activities.

Here's a few additional ideas for how to calm your mental/emotional state: 

Meditation (Calm or Headspace apps are helpful!)

  1. Go for a walk

  2. Get outside

  3. Exercise

  4. Call a friend

  5. Do an activity/hobby you enjoy

  6. Read a good book

  7. Cook a good meal

  8. Play with your pet!

On my instagram account @drsamanthatmj, I’ve created a story highlight titled “Wellness” where you can follow along on some of the things I enjoy for stress management and a generally healthy lifestyle! :)

Wishing you all the best & see you next month!