What Is TMJ Physical Therapy and How Can It Help You?

TMJ disorder is a common condition that causes pain and dysfunction at or around the jaws. Symptoms of TMJ disorder sometimes go away on their own with time. However, if your symptoms are persistent, TMJ physical therapy may be effective at relieving them. Doctors often recommend nonsurgical treatment options, such as physical therapy, as a first-line treatment for musculoskeletal complaints.

What Is the Difference Between TMJ and TMD?

TMJ is an abbreviation for the temporomandibular joint. This is the place where the jawbone connects on either side of your head. The mandible, which is another name for the jawbone, connects to the temporal bone in the skull, just in front of your ear. Because the jawbone connects on both sides, you have two temporomandibular joints.

TMJ disorder occurs because of damage to the soft tissues in the joint. This is caused by pressure on the joint, which can occur when you have poor posture or grind your teeth at night. Some people have a genetic predisposition to TMJ disorder, and sometimes the cause is unknown.

Doctors use the abbreviation TMD specifically to refer to TMJ disorder and use TMJ when they are just referring to the joint. People who do not work in the medical profession often have no reason to refer to the TMJ except when referring to the disorder and use TMJ interchangeably with TMD.

What Are the Symptoms of TMJ Disorder?

TMJ disorder can cause pain and tenderness of the jaw. It may be localized around either or both of the temporomandibular joints. The disorder can cause pain while chewing or cause the joint to lock when trying to open or close the mouth. You may feel a generalized aching pain in your face or pain in and around your ear because it is located so close to the TMJ.

If you have trouble completely opening or closing your mouth due to TMJ disorder symptoms, or if your pain is consistent or severe, you could possibly benefit from going to a physical therapy clinic for evaluation and treatment.

What Is TMJ Physical Therapy?

When you first go to physical therapy near me for pain and symptoms at the TMJ, the therapist may first try pain relief modalities to get your symptoms under control. These may include moist heat, ice, or ultrasound. Once your pain is under control, your therapist may move on to exercises of the jaw that can help to stretch out and strengthen the jaw muscles. At first, you will do these exercises in the clinic, and then your physical therapist will instruct you on how and when to do them at home. Because symptoms of TMJ disorder often arise from poor posture, your physical therapy course may include posture education to teach you how to hold your head up straight and avoid putting pressure on the TMJ by holding your head too far forward.

How Can It Help You Improve Quality Life?

If your symptoms at the TMJ are severe, they may interfere with normal activities, such as eating and talking. Physical therapy can help relieve the pressure and irritation at the TMJ that is causing your symptoms. With time and consistent practice, your symptoms should go away, allowing you to go back to your everyday life without trouble. Learn more about TMJ physical therapy.