TMJ-Related Jaw Pain and the Role of a Physio in TMD

  1. What is TMJ and TMJ-related pain? 

– The temporo-mandibular joint (TMJ) is a double hinge joint that connects the jaw bone to the skull. 

– The TMJ also has a disc that helps the joint to glide smoothly and open the mouth to talk, yawn, bite and chew.

– TMJ pain refers to discomfort or pain due to pathology in the TMJ. 

  1. What causes TMJ pain? 

Some of the common causes of TMJ disorders include: 

  • Injury or trauma to the jaw joint 
  • A displaced disc that would usually help to cushion the movements of the jaw, or arthritis of this disc 
  • Excess stimulation of the jaw joint—including grinding your teeth or involuntary clenching of the jaw due to stress and anxiety 
  • Pain from the muscles that control jaw movement
  • Arthritis of the TMJ
  • Bad chewing habits can lead to TMDs (i.e. dysfunction of TMJ) – eg: clenching, nail biting, chewing gum, chewing pencil, lip pursing.
  • Stress, anxiety, lack of sleep can make this worse!
  1. What are the symptoms of TMJ pain: 
  • jaw pain, tenderness, painful clicks, headaches, difficulty with mouth opening, yawning, chewing, biting, talking, ear pain or tooth pain, clicking or popping sounds, limited mouth opening and often accompanied by neck pain/stiffness. 
  • Sounds are totally fine until they are accompanied by pain.
  1. Role of physiotherapy in assessment and management of TMD: 
  • Professionally trained “TMJ physios” would go through a thorough physical examination of the jaw, cervical spine and examination of posture.
  • A review of dental and medical history, identifying and modifying the physical and mental stressors. 
  • Liaising with other healthcare professionals eg: dentists for night guards.  
  • TMJ and cervical spine joint mobilizations, soft tissue therapy, trigger point dry needling techniques. 
  • Exercise prescription: jaw exercises, cervical spine exercises, posture correction, muscle relaxation techniques, strengthening, improving mobility and pain management. 

Most TMJ related pain can be effectively managed conservatively. The role of a physiotherapist is crucial in reducing jaw pain. If you are experiencing TMJ pain, it is advisable to consult a “TMJ physio” for appropriate assessment, guidance and treatment of your specific situation. 

Scroll to Top