What is TMJ Disorder, and How Can Physiotherapy Help?

By Athlete's Care on September 20, 2022

Many people have heard of TMJ (or TMJ Disorder), but not so many know that your Toronto physiotherapist can help with this often painful and uncomfortable condition.

What is TMJ?

TMJ stands for temporomandibular joint, a complex structure that acts as a sliding hinge connecting the jawbone to the rest of the skull. There is one TMJ on each side of the jaw.

TMJ disorders (also dubbed TMD) result in pain and discomfort, and affect the movement of the jaw. The causes of TMJ disorders are often hard to pinpoint. There may be a variety of issues at play, including:

  • Jaw injury;
  • Arthritis;
  • Genetics;
  • Clenching or grinding teeth (bruxism).

Much of the time, TMJ disorders are temporary in nature, and surgery and other interventions are relatively rare. 


TMJ disorders can be hard to diagnose. Here’s what you can observe on your own, and let your Toronto physiotherapist know about during your consultation:

  • What does your jaw feel like as you open and close your mouth?
  • Is the range of motion full, or compromised?
  • What areas experience pain or discomfort?

Pain may focus around the joint, or radiate towards the ear, and culminate in a locking of the jaw, meaning it is difficult to either open or close.  If there is persistent pain and tenderness, it’s time to see a doctor for a firm diagnosis.

Once your TMJ has been diagnosed via examination and imaging such as a dental X-ray or CT scan, the underlying problem may also be revealed.

Physiotherapy Can Help

In cases where surgery is not indicated, physiotherapy can help. While the research is as yet limited, TMJ exercises have been known to help induce relaxation of tight jaw muscles, and increase mobility.

  • Physical therapy and exercise can serve to strengthen the jaw muscles;
  • Stretching jaw muscles can also provide relief;
  • Other treatments might include ultrasound therapy, as well as either ice or moist heat.

Your Toronto physiotherapist can suggest a range of exercises designed to relax the jaw, improve mobility, and help reduce pain.

What else can you do?

In some cases, medical acupuncture has also proven to be useful in relieving pressure in the jaw, as well as massaging the joint and muscles around it. Along with physiotherapy, there are other simple measures you can take to alleviate symptoms:

  • Choosing foods with a softer texture, and cutting it into small pieces;
  • Avoiding excessive chewing (gum, etc);
  • Avoiding resting your jaw on your hands, or holding the telephone with your shoulder and ear;
  • Avoiding sleeping face down;
  • Improving posture, to reduce stress on the neck and jaw.

If you are experiencing pain in your jaw, or you have been diagnosed with a TMJ disorder and would like to add physiotherapy to your treatment plan, don’t hesitate to contact one of our Toronto physiotherapy clinics today for a consultation.