TMJ Treatment

Toronto Physiotherapy Danforth and Chester Treatment RoomWe offer TMJ treatment: physiotherapy for individuals with jaw pain, and/or limited mobility of the jaw.

The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) can become irritated, inflamed, and painful for a variety of reasons. Contributing factors can include overuse or poor patterning of the muscles that control the jaw, sleeping position, postural factors, grinding, jaw or dental surgery, or injury. Thankfully, the vast majority of individuals with TMJ disorders respond well to conservative care approaches (i.e. physiotherapy). Physiotherapy is the gold standard first-line approach for the treatment of TMJ pain or loss of mobility.

Our Registered Physiotherapists Paul Messner and Elias Peixoto have a special interest in treating TMJ dysfunction and pain, and are highly sought out for this specialized care.

WHAT IS TMJ DYSFUNCTION?

TMJ dysfunction (known as ‘TMD’) is a condition involving pain in the jaw joint(s) and/or surrounding muscles. This condition can result in significant loss of function resulting in pain or limited mobility while chewing, opening and yawning. This dysfunction can be either on one or both sides of the jaw. Other symptoms of TMD dysfunction include noises such as clicking or crunching in the jaw, occassional locking while opening or closing the mouth, headaches (often in the ‘temples’ at the sides of the head), and neck pain and/or stiffness. These symptoms of pain and stiffness are often more pronounced first thing in the morning and during or after eating.

TREATMENT OF TMJ PAIN AND LOST MOBILITY

Patients with jaw pain, restriction or clicking are sometimes referred by their dentist or physician to an oral surgeon. But most patients discover that they are neither a candidate for surgery nor is surgery typically desirable. Instead, physiotherapy approaches are the best place to start. Ignoring the symptoms and waiting too long to address TMJ dysfunction when it occurs can be counter productive, both prolonging the symptoms and potentially worsening the condition.

Thankfully, TMJ-specific physiotherapy is highly effective at treating TMJ pain and limited opening of the jaw. Clinical studies have shown that manual physical therapy intervention and home exercise programs significantly improve both pain and jaw function (you can read more about this in our blog post Physiotherapy treatment for TMJ pain).

PHYSIOTHERAPY TREATMENT FOR TMJ PAIN AND DYSFUNCTION TYPICALLY INCLUDES:

  • Hands-on therapy to manually work to regain pain-free range of motion, to decrease the load on the irritated TMJ disc(s), and to encourage proper gliding (movement) at the joint.
  • Hands-on massage and stretching of overly tight jaw and potentially also neck muscles.
  • Training jaw relaxation to help relax tight chewing muscles and release undo tension.
  • Dry needling or acupuncture to relax trigger points in the jaw muscles and to reduce pain.
  • Strengthening exercises to remove any imbalances in the muscles of the jaw, and to correct suboptimal movement patterns of the jaw when opening and/or closing the mouth.
  • Advice on sleeping positioning, chewing pattern, and temporary modifications to diet to help decrease jaw stress and allow space for healing.
  • Postural strategies to reduce strain on the jaw due (addressing any ergonomic factors due to workstation set-up, forward head posture, etc.).
  • Treatment of the neck and back as needed, should a longer chain of postural factors or stiffness be a contributing factor to the position and/or stresses being placed on the jaw. Joint restrictions in the neck and back can negatively influence the jaw and its movement.

YOU DON’T NEED TO ‘GRIN AND BEAR IT’

TMD can be a painful and disheartening condition that can create social and professional challenges around talking and eating.

You don’t have to live with it this condition. For most patients, surgery is neither available, warranted, or desirable. TMJ pain and dysfunction can be effectively treated with physiotherapy, and this is supported by the broader rehabilitation community and a large body of clinical research.

In addition to providing hands-on therapy and exercise to restore jaw function, TMJ physiotherapists can help educate their patients to better understand their condition. Educating patients on how not only to recover, but also on how to take care of their jaw muscles and joints to prevent future issues is a core component of effective rehabilitation. A comprehensive approach to TMJ physiotherapy can effectively treat TMJ disorders and reduce the risk of recurrence.

Girl with mouth open to show TMJ function

ABOUT OUR TMJ PHYSIOTHERAPISTS

Paul Messner (Registered Physiotherapist) is an experienced physical therapist with training in TMJ rehabilitation and has great success with this patient population.  He is well-known for his expertise in treating patients with various TMJ disorders and receives regular referrals from dentists and oral surgeons in Toronto. Paul works full-time at our Danforth & Chester location.

Elias Peixoto (Registered Physiotherapist) is also experienced in treating TMJ conditions and enjoys working with individuals with various facial (Bell’s palsy) and jaw/TMJ conditions.  He approaches each TMJ case with a tailored assessment and incorporates manual therapy, soft tissue work, acupuncture – whatever will work best to provide improved mobility/decreased pain as quickly as possible for his patients.  Elias works full-time at our Yonge & Summerhill location.