How can physical therapy help treat TMD?

Temporomandibular disorder (TMD) has many similarities to other musculoskeletal disorders seen throughout the body and treated by physical therapists. Therefore, therapeutic approaches for other musculoskeletal disorders generally apply to TMD. 

Physical therapy can help manage patient symptoms and provide treatment for TMD:

Posture Education

Physical therapists are trained to assist with providing treatment for a variety of postural dysfunctions through therapeutic exercise and education. Altered cervical posture can create muscle imbalances which place abnormal strain on the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). Education on poor posture habits such as sitting at a desk for long periods with head too far foward, cradling a telephone receiver against the same shoulder, and more are also addressed.

Evaluation & Treatment of Cervical Spine

Often the cervical spine can play a role in TMJ dysfunction and pain. Physical therapists are able to evaluate and treat cervical spine disorders that may be contributing to TMD.

Improving Jaw Movement

Physical therapists can use skilled manual therapy techniques and exercises to assist with
improving jaw ROM, relaxing soft tissue, and relieving pain.

Pain Interventions

Various modalities can be used to assist with decreasing pain and promoting tissue healing, such as ultrasound, dry needling, and electrical stimulation.

Exercise Techniques

Physical therapists can teach patients exercises to improve strength, ROM, and muscle function of surrounding musculature to improve symptoms and function.

Education and Self-Management

A home program can be established to improve jaw function and symptoms. Physical therapists can assist with educating patients on basic modifications that can be made to help reduce stress on the TMJ.

Referral to Dentist

Physical therapists can refer or work with a patient’s dentist to discuss other treatment options and maximize improvements.