Too Young For Jaw Pain?

by humam, April 6, 2017

Here is the low down about TMJ symptoms. TMJ symptoms can mimic a lot of other musculoskeletal complaints, and below are a few typical symptoms:

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-Headaches, facial pain, clicking/clunking, ear fullness/congestion, ear ringing (tinnitus).
In clinical practice I receive a lot of referrals from a wide variety of referral sources including dentists, ENTs, and primary care physicians. I have found that even the patients that are not seeking care for TMJ symptoms either know someone or unknowingly describe TMJ-like symptoms such as the ones listed above. Here is a great example:
Today I had a patient presenting with TMD (Tempomandibular Disorder), who was referred from a local TMJ and sleep apnea specialist.

The pt had a history of neck pain and jaw pain for the last 2-3 years with no known stressor or mechanism of injury. She also described pretty typical TMJ symptoms that included intermittent headaches, audible clicking with jaw motion that was very painful, and a history of intermittent open lock and closed lock. Open and closed lock is essentially when the patient’s jaw is “stuck” and cannot move from a specific stage of opening.

On examination, the patient presented with relatively pain free neck motion, but reported lower neck pain with end range neck flexion. The examination of the patient’s TMJ joint was quite remarkable and it showed pain with opening, medial, and lateral deviation. She presented with an end range click that was painful with R-deviation, L-deviation was painful but no click was noted.

Here is the interesting part: She was 16.
Here is the next interesting part: We were able to abolish her clicking that was noted near her end-range and she reported about a 2/10 pain compared to a typical 8/10 pain. The technique chosen was distraction which created more space for the R-TMJ joint to move with less resistance. She was very excited, and so was I. I gave her extensive patient education about home exercises, posture, and reassured her that I see this all the time and that she will get better.

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms above, it does not matter if your pain is acute or chronic, there is always hope and it most likely will get better!

-Dr. Shafer,DPT,CSCS

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