TMJ Dysfunction

Temporomandibular disorder (TMD) is a term that covers an entire group of disorders involving the jaw joints, or temporomandibular joints (TMJs). There is one TMJ on each side of the head just in front of the ear canals. Like many other joints, the TMJs consist of muscles that control joint movement, ligaments that hold the bones together, cartilage that provides a smooth surface for the bones to move on, a disc that helps with proper movement of the bones, and elastic tissue that helps hold the disc in place. Any of these components may cause issues, resulting in as many as one third of the population at any one time experiencing a TMJ symptom such as pain with chewing, yawning, or jaw opening. Women experience TMJ issues even more often than men, and it is estimated that 3-6% of the population could benefit from TMD treatment.

How Physical Therapy Can Help:

As physical therapists are trained to treat muscle and joint problems, they are ideally suited to address the muscular (myogenous), joint (arthrogenous), and muscular-joint combinations of TMDs. Many patients diagnosed with a TMD experience neck pain as well, which physical therapists are also able to address. No other healthcare practitioner is better suited to treat both a TMD and neck pain. Your physical therapist will perform a brief examination to identify the source(s) of your pain, ensure that you are properly educated about your TMD, confirm that treatment is conservative and cost-effective, and help you set and achieve realistic goals. In their examination, they will determine which of the following you may be experiencing:
  • An inflammatory condition
  • Limited jaw range of motion
  • Excessive jaw range of motion
  • Arthrogenous disc displacement
  • Jaw muscle pain
  • Neck pain causing related headaches (sometimes mistaken as TMD)
Once the involved structures are identified, the therapist will be able to provide you with the appropriate treatment.
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