Brian Leimkuhler, PT, DPT
Strengthening the Jaw
Here at Lynch Physical Therapy, we take pride in being one of the few physical therapy clinics in the area to provide specialized services for TMJ and jaw related pain/injuries. My background is more sports/orthopedic, so learning the jaw was a new experience for me. During my time at here at Lynch Physical Therapy, I’ve started to relate the jaw to my time in the sports environment. A big takeaway from this time is…the jaw is just like any other joint in the body. It’s based on muscle strength, coordination, and endurance. After an injury to any other area of the body, we know we have to strengthen and recondition to get back to 100%. The same can be said about the jaw.
The jaw is an intimate area, and we should proceed with care. The goal is to be strategic with the rehab process. A lot of times, you will notice a strength deficit elsewhere (neck, shoulders, etc.) that may impact the jaw during day-to-day activities as well. As a physical therapist, my goal is to help formulate a game plan in strengthening and reconditioning the muscles involved. Another big component of care is to start using these big, strong muscles. They want to be worked and they want to be beat up. At Lynch Physical Therapy, we find the best combination of exercises to retrain these muscles without overstressing them.
I use manual therapy, specifically trigger point release therapy to reduce resting tension in muscles to allow them to perform better. Once muscles are relaxed, my main focus becomes strengthening some muscles and reeducating them to work in the way they were intended. Even though we are strengthening, the main objective is to change those old habits and create a new pattern of movement. Massage, dry needling, or other techniques all provide temporary relief. However, if you keep moving the same way, the muscles will always return to that tense, painful state. By retraining these muscles to contract efficiently and correctly, we not only reduce pain but eliminate any recurring episodes of pain altogether.