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Temporomandibular Joint Disorders Therapy at UPMC Rehabilitation Institute

If you have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJD), your jaw joint doesn't work like it should. You may have jaw pain or clenching, or clicking noises.

There isn't one answer for how to cure TMJD.

Sometimes, it gets better on its own. But physical therapy can often ease symptoms of TMJD.

What Are Temporomandibular Disorders (TMJD)?

TMJD is a broad term for pain and dysfunction in the jaw joint.

The jaw joint is where the jawbone meets the skull. If you put your fingers in front of your ears and open your mouth, you can feel your jaw joint move.

TMJD can also affect the muscles in the face, head, neck, and shoulder.

TMJD risks

Doctors often don't know what causes TMJD, but risk factors include:

  • Stress.
  • Injury.
  • Poor posture.

Many people with TMJD have clicking or popping noises in their jaw.

On their own, clicking sounds don't mean you have TMJD. Without pain, these sounds are harmless.

Learn more about TJMD risks.

What Is Temporomandibular Joint Disorders Therapy?

You can try some TMJD treatments at home. For instance, learning how to manage stress through relaxation techniques helps some people with TMJD.

Other self-care options include:

  • Eating soft foods.
  • Taking over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
  • Applying ice packs or moist heat to the jaw.

If at-home measures don't ease symptoms, physical therapy for TMJD may help.

The goal of TMJD treatment is to help you regain normal jaw movement. A physical therapist with expertise in TMJD can create a program based on your symptoms.

Physical therapy may include:

  • Exercises for your jaw and facial muscles.
  • Heat and ice.
  • Trigger point massage.
  • Learning ways to improve your posture.
  • Learning to meditate or other relaxation techniques.
  • Acupuncture.
  • Moving the jaw joint to release scar tissue.
  • Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation.
  • Ultrasound.

These treatments address:

  • Strength, flexibility, and range of motion.
  • How blood circulates in the jaw.
  • Pain and muscle tension.
  • Posture and correct jaw alignment.

Symptoms We Treat with Temporomandibular Joint Disorders Therapy

Physical therapy can ease many TMJD symptoms, such as:

  • Painful clicking, grating, or popping in the jaw when you open or close your mouth.
  • The jaw “locking" fully or allowing only slight movement.
  • The upper and lower teeth not fitting with each other.
  • Pain in the jaw joint, especially when you chew.
  • Pain that radiates into the face or neck.
  • Ringing or a feeling of fullness in your ears.
  • Hearing loss.

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