Temporomandibular Disorders (TMD)

Temporomandibular Disorder (TMD), is a term that describes an entire group of disorders involving the Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) or joints.

The TMJs are the jaw joints. There is one on each side of your head just in front of your ear canals. Like many other joints in the body, they consist of:

  • Muscles that control joint movement
  • Ligaments that hold the bones together
  • Cartilage that provides a smooth surface on which the bones move
  • A disc that helps with proper movement of the bones
  • Elastic tissue that helps hold the disc in place

One or more of the above tissues can cause symptoms.

Studies suggest that one third of the U.S. population at any one time experiences TMJ symptoms such as pain with chewing, yawning, or jaw opening. Women seem to have TMJ problems much more often than men and it is estimated that 3-6% of the population might benefit from treatment.

There are a variety of temporomandibular disorders. The muscles (myogenous), joint(s) (arthrogenous), or a combination of the two may cause pain.

Since physical therapists treat muscle and joint problems, they are ideally suited to address TMD. Moreover, a majority of patients diagnosed with TMD, also have associated neck pain. Both respond well to treatment provided by a physical therapist. No other healthcare practitioner is better suited to address both the TMD and neck pain.

TMD may appear to be a complex condition and it shouldn't be. This website and your physical therapist will help to ensure the following:

  1. You are properly educated,
  2. Your treatment is conservative, cost-effective, and practical,
  3. Your goals are realistic, and
  4. Your examination is brief and meant to identify the root cause(s) of your pain.

When a physical therapist performs the examination, you may be classified as having one or more of the following:

  1. An inflammatory condition
  2. Limited jaw range of motion
  3. Excessive jaw range of motion
  4. Arthrogenous Disc Displacement
  5. Jaw muscle pain
  6. Neck pain causing related headaches (sometimes mistaken as TMD)

Once the involved structures are identified, the therapist will be able to provide you with the appropriate treatment.

Possible Treatments