Physical Therapy for Temporomandibular Disorders
A physical therapist can develop a program for you that includes
learning and practicing techniques for regaining normal jaw movement.
The focus of physical therapy for
temporomandibular disorders (TMDs) is relaxation,
stretching, and releasing tight muscles and scar tissue. Physical therapy is an
especially important part of recovery from TM joint surgery, as it helps
minimize scar tissue formation and muscle tightness.
Physical therapy techniques may include:
- Jaw exercises to strengthen muscles and improve
flexibility and range of motion.
- Heat therapy to improve blood
circulation in the jaw.
- Ice therapy to reduce swelling and relieve
- Massage to relieve overall muscle
- Training to improve posture and correct jaw
- Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), which is the application of a mild electrical current to the
skin over the jaw joint. This electrical current is thought to interfere with
the body's pain signals. TENS relaxes muscles, improves blood circulation, and
relieves pain. The effectiveness of TENS varies, but it seems to work for some
- Movement of the temporomandibular (TM) joint to release scar tissue that
restricts muscle movement and to improve range of
- Ultrasound therapy, which uses high-frequency sound waves
directed to the TM joint, to reduce pain and swelling and improve
What To Expect After Treatment
After a physical therapy session, you should rest the jaw, try to
control habits that cause jaw pain, and avoid chewing foods that stress the
Why It Is Done
- Is frequently used in combination with
medicine, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or muscle
- May be recommended if symptoms are not relieved with
home treatment and are related to muscle tension.
- Is used after
surgery to promote healing and reduce pain and swelling.
How Well It Works
Physical therapy is important to the success of both surgical and
nonsurgical treatments for TMDs.1
Any therapy that involves physical movement of the jaw may make
joint problems worse. And this therapy must be done by an experienced professional.
What To Think About
Do not begin physical therapy and jaw exercises to improve jaw
range of motion until your doctor has determined what type of TM
joint problem you have and what jaw structures are affected.
Complete the special treatment information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this treatment.
Scrivani SJ, et al. (2008). Temporomandibular disorders. New England Journal of Medicine, 359(25): 2693–2705.
|Primary Medical Reviewer||Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine|
|Specialist Medical Reviewer||Arden Christen, DDS, MSD, MA, FACD - Dentistry|
|Last Revised||January 11, 2012|