tmj dysfunction

Temporomandibular joint is a sliding hinge that connects the jaw to the temporal bones of the skull, which are in front of each ear. It lets the jaw move up and down and side to side, as a result of which you can yawn, talk and chew. TMJ disorders - a type of temporomandibular disorder or TMD that may lead to pain in your jaw joint and in the muscles that control jaw movement.

The abbreviation has also been used to refer to a group of health problems related to the jaw, but this is becoming more commonly abbreviated as TMD or TMJD to distinguish the temporomandibular joint itself from TMJ disorders. These disorders can cause tenderness at the joint, facial pain, and difficulty in opening, closing the jaw.

Although this dysfunction is not life-threatening if left untreated can contribute to significant discomfort and tension. Chronic pain can even lead to the development of diseases like stress, depression, and anxiety. 


The symptoms of TMJ disorders depend on the exact cause and its severity. The most common symptom noticed is a pain in the jaw and surrounding muscles. Other symptoms typically associated with this are:

• Stiffness in jaw muscles

• Swelling on either side or both sides of the face

• Jaw locking

• Clicking/popping sound

• Pain in face or neck

• Constraint movement of the jaw

Symptoms may show up on either side of the face, sometimes, or both.


In many cases, the exact cause is unclear. The temporomandibular joint amalgamates a hinge action with sliding motions. The parts of the bones that interact in the joints are covered with cartilage and are separated by a small shock-absorbing disk, which ultimately keeps the movement smooth. 

Painful TMJ disorders can occur if:

• Grinding or clenching your teeth puts pressure on the joint.

• The disk erodes and moves out of its proper alignment.

• The joint’s cartilage is damaged by arthritis.

• The joint is damaged by a heavy blow or other impacts.


It is significant to make an accurate diagnosis to ensure that appropriate treatment is given and that potentially serious problems aren’t overlooked. Physical therapies are an essential part of recovery from TMJ surgery as it helps reduce pain and inflammation, minimize scar tissue formation and muscle tightness. The main focus of physiotherapy is stretching, relaxation, and releasing tight muscles.

A great physical therapist will do a thorough assessment of your case specifically and match the treatment plan to the cause of your symptoms. The treatment plan may include the following mentioned remedies:

• Jaw exercises to reinforce muscles and improve range of motion.

• Heat therapy to blood circulation

• Ice therapy to alleviate pain and swelling

• Massage to relieve muscle tension

• Ultrasound therapy that uses high frequency sound waves directed to temporomandibular joint

• TENS (Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) is thought to interfere with the body’s pain signals, eventually relaxing muscles, alleviating pain, and improving blood circulation.

• Postural training to help with self-management of the disorder and preventing it from occurring again.

It is advised to not begin physical therapy and jaw exercises on your own to improve range of motion until your physical therapist has determined what joint problem you exactly have and what jaw structures are affected. Because any therapy involving physical movement of the jaw may make joint problems even worse.

You may also make use of physical therapies after surgery to promote healing.


The perspective for a TMJ disorder exactly depends on the cause of the problem. It is seen that TMD can be successfully treated in many people with home remedies, such as changing posture or reducing stress. But, if your condition is caused by a chronic condition such as arthritis, lifestyle changes would not be enough. Arthritis may erode down the joint over time and increase pain.

Most of the cases of TMJD warrant changes in lifestyle habits, possibly combined with medications to ease any pain and discomfort. Aggressive treatments are mostly not needed. Talk to your physiotherapist about your options to determine what treatment is right for you.

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