Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Physical Therapy

Professionally reviewed by David Blum, PT, DPT, OCS, Manager, Outpatient Services, on 03/26/2023.

Physical therapy is an effective, proven and non-invasive method to relieve jaw pain and restore mobility from temporomandibular joint disorders or dysfunction (TMD). The cause(s) of TMD can be complex and multi-faceted, making correct diagnosis and treatment crucial.

TMD is very common to have at some point during a lifespan and can be affected by stress and posture.

What are the Temporomandibular Joints?

Temporomandibular joints (TMJ) are the two joints that connect the lower jawbone to the skull. Used more than any other joint in the body, they are susceptible to problems that cause pain and limit jaw mobility.

TMD Symptoms

Temporomandibular disorders (TMD) are disorders of the jaw muscles, temporomandibular joints and the nerves linked to facial pain. Any problem that prevents the complex system of muscles, bones and joints from working together may result in temporomandibular disorder.

In addition to jaw pain, TMD symptoms also can include:

  • Ear pain
  • Difficulty opening or closing the mouth
  • Headaches
  • Joint sounds
  • Pain
  • Postural deficits
  • Teeth sensitivity

How is TMD Diagnosed?

Temporomandibular disorders (TMD) are usually diagnosed by a physician, such as general practitioner, orthopedic physician, ear, nose and throat (ENT) physician or by a dentist or oral surgeon.

Your healthcare clinician will provide a physical exam, which they will check to see if you have any facial pain when opening and closing your mouth. They will also check if you have any cracking or popping while chewing, biting or opening your mouth.

Imaging tests, such as X-rays, CT scans and MRIs can help clarify the diagnosis.

Can TMD be Prevented?

Temporomandibular disorders (TMD) can be prevented, although it is common to experience TMD symptoms at some point throughout your life.

The right diagnosis and treatment is vital in maintaining and/or improving temporomandibular joint (TMJ) function and preventing dysfunction. Education, modifications and the correct exercises and stretches for a specific person can improve and prevent TMD, as well as enable someone to maintain their function throughout life.

Good Shepherd’s TMJ Physical Therapy Approach

Good Shepherd’s trained, licensed physical therapists perform a comprehensive evaluation of the jaw, neck, thoracic spine and shoulder girdle to determine the cause of TMD and develop a customized therapy plan. Assessment and treatment involve:

  • Temporomandibular joint
  • Upper cervical spine
  • Upper quarter musculature

TMJ therapy at Good Shepherd includes using an impairment-based approach, targeting all relevant musculoskeletal deficits in mobility, flexibility, active range of motion, strength, endurance, pain and motor control.

TMD Treatment

Since the cause(s) of TMD are often connected, therapy may consist of one or more of the following:

  • Chewing modification
  • Joint mobilization
  • Manual therapy
  • Posture modification
  • Range of motion
  • Relaxation training
  • Soft tissue mobilization
  • Stretching
  • Therapeutic exercises

TMJ Physical Therapy Locations

Good Shepherd Rehabilitation offers TMJ physical therapy at a number of our outpatient locations throughout the Lehigh Valley. Find a location near you.

Request an Appointment

For more information on TMD therapy or to request an appointment, call 1.888.44.REHAB (73422) or fill out the form below.

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