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What is TMJ Disorder?

Temporomandibular disorder (TMD) is a very common problem affecting up to 33% of individuals within their lifetime.1  TMD occurs as a result of problems within the joint complex that connects your jaw to your skull.1,2 The joint is composed of a capsule, articular disc, bones (mandibular and temporal) and three ligaments (temporomandibular, stylomandibular and sphenomandibular). In addition, four muscles of mastication (masseter, medial/lateral pterygoid and temporalis muscle) allow for movement of your jaw during speaking and chewing. 1, 2 Dysfunction to any part of these structures can contribute to TMD.2 Most common symptoms are localized pain to the joint or muscles of mastication and painful or painless clicking/popping of the jaw.1, 2 Further, TMD can contribute to:


Ear pain/ache
Popping in ears
Stiff or sore muscles of the jaw
Pain in temple area
Locking of the jaw


What causes TMD?

Typically, TMD is caused by injury to the jaw or teeth, misalignment of the teeth/ jaw, teeth grinding, poor posture, stress, arthritis and excessive gum chewing.2 In addition, improper mechanics of the jaw during chewing can lead to TMD by loading the tissues inappropriately.2 Further, TMD may present itself alongside neck dysfunction that may be contributing to symptoms (i.e. headache and pain in temple area).2


What can physiotherapy do for TMD?

Physiotherapy can help individuals with TMD understand the underlying cause of their symptoms to help control and limit them. 1,3 In addition, physiotherapy will strive to educate you and equip you with the tools to manage tackle your symptoms on your own. 1,3 Specifically, physical therapy can help control pain; ensure proper mechanics of the TMJ, and increase strength, range and proper control of the joint. 1,3 Techniques used include but are not limited to:


Individualized therapeutic exercise (strengthening and motor control) 1,3
Manual therapy1,3
Myofascial release1,3
Friction point massage3
Ultrasound 1,3
Dry needling 1,3
Postural retraining 1
Cervical Spine management3


Call us to see how we can help your TMJ disorder. 


Evgeny Manuylov, UWO PT Student



Wright, E., & North, S. (2009). Management and treatment of temporomandibular disorders: A clinical perspective. Journal of Manual & Manipulative Therapy, 17(4), 247-254. doi:10.1179/106698109791352184
Shaffer, S. M., Brisme, J., Sizer, P. S., & Courtney, C. A. (2014). Temporomandibular disorders. part 1: Anatomy and examination/diagnosis. Journal of Manual & Manipulative Therapy, 22(1), 2-12. doi:10.1179/2042618613Y.0000000060
Shaffer, S. M., Brisme, J., Sizer, P. S., & Courtney, C. A. (2014). Temporomandibular disorders. part 2: Conservative management. Journal of Manual & Manipulative Therapy, 22(1), 13-23. doi:10.1179/2042618613Y.0000000061

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Steph DaSilva
October 16, 2018
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