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Physical Therapy for TMJ Disorders

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

The primary characteristic of a temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder is pain in and around the jaw.  Additional complaints may include popping/clicking, ringing in the ears, headaches, limited mouth opening or a tendency for the jaw to "lock."

There are two primary categories of TMJ dysfunction:

1. Joint or Disc Disorder

A joint or disc disorder involves impaired movement in the joint itself.  Bony abnormalities due to congenital deformity or arthritic changes may contribute to joint dysfunction. 

More often, inappropriate movement of the articular disc is responsible for inability of the bony structures to roll and glide appropriately.

2. Masticatory or Muscle Disorder

A masticatory or muscle disorder results from imbalance in the pull of muscles around the jaw.  Unlike a joint or disc disorder, a masticatory disorder may not be associated with any pathology or structural abnormalities. Lifestyle habits such as stress responses, sleep hygiene and posture contribute to maladaptive forces on certain muscles and tendons, resulting over time in microtrauma, altered movement patterns and development of pain.

Did You Know TMJ

How Can a Physical Therapist Help?

TMJ dysfunction ultimately results in functional limitations due to pain or impaired movement, regardless of its original cause.  Physical therapists specialize in restoration of movement patterns, including those of the facial region.

The goals of physical therapy treatment for TMJ may include:

  • Reducing acute pain and inflammation via modalities such as electrical stimulation
  • Decreasing compressive forces in the joint with manual therapy techniques
  • Improving motor patterns associated with talking and chewing via specific exercises
  • Promoting awareness of postural and lifestyle factors that contribute to TMJ dysfunction

At PHOENIX, our physical therapists understand the multi-faceted nature of pain, and the importance of a team approach in treating persistent pain disorders.  Your physical therapist (PT) will design a treatment program specific to your needs and symptoms in order to relieve pain and increase function.  For more detailed information on how a PT can help you, visit the PHOENIX location nearest you.


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Blairsville, PA 15717-8096

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