Does TMJ go away?

does tmj go away

Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) dysfunction is a common but misunderstood condition. It affects the jaw joint and the surrounding muscles. If you are experiencing TMJ dysfunction, you may wonder if it is a temporary issue that will go away or if it’s here to stay. It’s a complicated answer, as TMJ dysfunction resolving can vary from person to person. Some symptoms of TMJ dysfunction may go away on their own with some self-care measures. However, for many with TMJ dysfunction, it can be a chronic condition that requires long-term intervention to help effectively manage symptoms. Seeking professional help is crucial to receiving an accurate diagnosis and developing an appropriate treatment plan to help your specific condition. 

Understanding TMJ dysfunction

TMJ dysfunction covers a range of conditions that affect the temporomandibular joint. This joint connects the jawbone to the skull and is essential for movements like chewing, speaking and yawning. It encompasses several issues that may affect the joints and the muscles that help control jaw movement. Problems with the TMJ can cause pain, discomfort and limited jaw movement. 

TMJ dysfunction is common and affects approximately 12% of people at some point in their lives. This condition is more common in women than men and frequently manifests between 20 and 40. TMJ dysfunction can go away on its own, usually in about six to eight weeks.

Symptoms of TMJ dysfunction

Before it goes away, TMJ dysfunction can cause a variety of symptoms, which may vary in intensity and duration. Common signs and symptoms include:

  • Jaw pain — Jaw pain can be persistent or intermittent and can be worsened by movement or chewing.

  • Facial pain — Discomfort or pain can be felt in the face, especially around the jaws, ears and temples.

  • Jaw stiffness — TMJ can cause difficulty or discomfort when opening or closing the mouth. It can also cause feelings of tightness.

  • Clicking or popping sounds — You may feel or hear clicking, popping or grating sounds when moving your jaw.

  • Headaches — TMJ dysfunction can cause recurrent headaches. These headaches occur in the temporal region and are associated with jaw muscle tension.

  • Ear pain — TMJ dysfunction can cause pain or discomfort in or around the ears. You may also experience a sense of fullness or ringing. 

Causes of TMJ dysfunction

It can be challenging to pinpoint the exact cause of TMJ dysfunction. It can even be due to a combination of factors. The cause of TMJ dysfunction can impact the time it takes for it to go away. Common factors that can contribute to TMJ dysfunction include:

  • Bruxism — Bruxism is the persistent grinding or clenching of the teeth. It causes excessive strain on the jaw joint.

  • Stress — Muscle tension and jaw clenching can be caused by increased emotional or psychological stress.

  • Arthritis — TMJ dysfunction can be caused by inflammatory arthritis in the joint.

  • Trauma or injury — Joint damage and muscle strain can be a result of a direct impact on the head or jaw, which can lead to TMJ dysfunction.

  • Malocclusion — Malocclusion is the misalignment of the teeth or jaw. Misalignment can affect the proper functioning of the TMJ.

  • Genetic factors — Genetic factors can cause people to be more predisposed to TMJ dysfunction than others. 

TMJ dysfunction complications

While TMJ dysfunction can go away on its own in some cases, if left untreated, it can lead to a variety of complications, including:

  • Chronic pain.
  • Limited jaw movement.
  • Dental issues.
  • Emotional distress.
  • Anxiety.
  • Depression.
  • Sleep disturbances.

Treatment options for TMJ dysfunction

TMJ dysfunction can be effectively managed or alleviated through a combination of conservative treatments and lifestyle modifications. Common treatment approaches include:

  • Self-care measures — Applying heating pads or cold packs, practicing relaxation techniques, and avoiding certain kinds of food can help alleviate symptoms.

  • Medications — Over-the-counter pain medications, muscle relaxants and anti-inflammatory medications can be beneficial in helping with pain management.

  • Oral appliances — If TMJ dysfunction is caused by teeth grinding or misalignment, customized oral appliances like splints or mouthguards can help alleviate symptoms due to these issues.

  • Physical therapy Physical therapy can be a crucial and beneficial treatment choice in helping to manage TMJ dysfunction. It can help address muscle imbalances, improve joint mobility, and provide you with exercise that can help strengthen and stretch the muscles of the TMJ. 

Physical therapy for TMJ dysfunction

Physical therapy is an evidence-based treatment that can be beneficial in helping to alleviate TMJ dysfunction symptoms. A physical therapist will evaluate the extent of your TMJ dysfunction and create a personalized treatment plan designed to your specific needs and concerns. Treatments may include:

  • Jaw exercises — Your physical therapist may recommend specific exercises that are intended to help you improve your jaw mobility, strength and coordination. These exercises can help alleviate the discomfort you are experiencing and restore more normal jaw function.

  • Manual therapy Manual therapy techniques like joint mobilization and soft tissue mobilization may be used to help manipulate your jaw joint and surrounding muscles. Soft tissue mobilization can help address any issues that may be caused by muscle spasms or tension in your jaw or neck. Joint mobilization can help improve your joint mobility and reduce muscle tension.

  • Dry needlingDry needling is a technique performed by a certified physical therapist. It involves manually inserting thin, sterile needles into trigger points in the soft tissue of the affected area, like the jaw and neck. Dry needling can help provide pain relief and improve circulation to help promote healing. 

Border Therapy Services can help you find relief from your TMJ dysfunction pain

While TMJ dysfunction can oftentimes go away on its own, if you find your pain lingering, physical therapy at Border Therapy Services can help. Our skilled physical therapists can help guide you toward pain relief and an improved quality of life. We are committed to providing you with compassionate and personalized care that can empower you in your recovery from TMJ dysfunction pain. Together, we can work to find long-lasting pain relief. 

Call us or request an appointment today for more information on how physical therapy can help your TMJ dysfunction.