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Temporomandibular joint disorders (TMD)

Temporomandibular joint disorders (TMD) affects the Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ). Those who suffer with TMD tend to have pain and discomfort with their jaw, as well as the area surrounding it. They can also have limited movement of their jaw, and a possible clicking sound coming from their jaw.

What is the Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ)?

The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is located where your jawbone attaches to your skull. A cartilage disc, called the articular disc, sits between where the two bones meet. This disc slides as your jaw is in motion, allowing your jawbone to move like a sliding hinge.

To support the large bones and cartilage disc, several muscles and ligaments attach near your TMJ. This allows your body to use your jaw frequently throughout the day for chewing, talking, eating, and swallowing.

What Causes TMD?

Temporomandibular joint disorders (TMD) tend to be caused by an injury, genetics, arthritis, poor posture, neck issues, poor body alignment, or a combination of those factors. Some people who grind or clench their teeth can also develop TMD, as well as those with forward head posture.

Common Symptoms of TMD:

  • Pain & clicking jaw
  • Headaches (typically in occipital region)
  • Tightness of the neck
  • Retracted mandible
  • Tilted neck
  • Shoulders being off balanced
How Can Physical Therapy Help TMD?

Most physicians don’t understand that sending their patients to a physical therapist first is what’s best. Since TMD affects your jaw, most people are under the assumption that it can ONLY be treated by a dentist or an orthodontist. You should actually receive a physical therapy evaluation before going to the dentist or orthodontist, as a physical therapist will evaluate the TMJ and the component parts of the head and neck. To comprehensively treat TMD, it may need to include a team approach between a physical therapist, your physician, and a dentist/orthodontist.

What Happens During a TMD Evaluation?

To start the process, an initial physical therapy evaluation will be performed. This will allow the physical therapist to assess the patient’s alignment and joint balance, as well as any restrictions, precautions, or concerns that the patient may have. These are some of the tests the physical therapist will do during the evaluation:

  • Assessment of your TMJ
  • Postural assessment
  • Review diagnostic imaging
  • Cervical assessment
  • Pain distribution
  • Comprehensive assessment of component parts
What Will My Treatment Look Like for TMD?

After the initial evaluation, a plan of care will be developed. The goal for TMD therapy is to decrease the amount of pain the patient is in, while also improving the patient’s function of their TMJ. During your length of treatment your physical therapist will incorporate a multitude of interventions into your sessions, as well as exercises for at home:

  • Manual physical therapy
  • Stretches
  • Functional exercises specifically tailored to the patient
  • Trigger Point Dry Needling (TDN)