Physiotherapist performing a jaw examination on a patient

Jaw Pain (TMJ)

Typically caused by TMJ disorders, jaw pain can limit the normal functioning of the jaw, causing pain and discomfort.

Physical therapy for jaw pain

Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD) refers to a painful dysfunction of the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). The joint consists of the upper temporal bone connected to your skull and the mandible, or the lower jawbone.

If you’re suffering from TMD, you may be experiencing pain and inflammation, headaches, limited range of motion, stiffness or locking of the jaw, and popping or clicking when opening or closing the mouth. Physical therapy for jaw pain can help alleviate many of these symptoms.

Causes of jaw pain

The exact cause of TMJ pain is often unknown, but contributing factors may include:

  • Occlusal abnormalities (upper and lower teeth touching)
  • Poor health and nutrition
  • Inflammation, arthritis, or trauma to the joint
  • Joint laxity
  • Muscle tightness or trigger points
  • Cervical or thoracic pain
  • Psychosocial factors such as chronic stress, anxiety, depression, or pain
older woman with grey hair laying down during physical therapy exam

Jaw pain (TMJ) symptoms

Patients suffering from jaw pain or someone that has temporomandibular dysfunction (TMD) may experience the following symptoms:

  • Pain and inflammation in the jaw that may spread to face or neck area
  • Difficulty chewing or pain while chewing
  • Difficulty opening or closing your mouth
  • Ringing or pain in the ears
  • Popping or clicking noise when opening or closing your mouth
  • Headaches or neck pain
older man sitting during physical therapy appointment for headaches

How we treat jaw pain

Your physical therapist will complete a comprehensive evaluation, including examining the neck, thoracic spine, and jaw. Once complete, your PT will create a customized
program. Treatment for jaw pain may include:

  • Flexibility and postural strengthening
  • Relaxation and self-management techniques
  • IASTM
  • Dry needling
  • Manual therapy
  • Therapeutic use of ice, heat, ultrasound, or electrical stimulation

Jaw pain resources

Approximately35-MILLION-Americanssuffer-from-jaw-pain.
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Physical Therapy for TMJ-Related Jaw Pain

By: Chris Robson, DPT, Center Manager – Hummelstown Pennsylvania Center A painful or annoying click in your jaw while eating dinner. Discomfort when yawning. Stiffness...

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5 Lifestyle Behaviors that Contribute to TMJ Discomfort or TMD

By Casondra Mortimer, DPT, Harrisonburg, VA Center TMJ stands for the temporomandibular joint, which connects one side of your mandible (lower jaw) to your skull. Temporomandibular dysfunction...

Physical Therapy Exercises for TMJ
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Physical Therapy Exercises for TMJ Disorders

Talking, chewing, and other basic facial movements should come with ease. But for individuals with TMD, which are conditions affecting the temporomandibular joints, these everyday movements...

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What to expect

Your first physical therapy appointment is about creating a personalized treatment plan based on your health history, diagnosis, and goals. Here’s what you can expect at your first physical therapy appointment:

Your first appointment will last about an hour. Please arrive 15 minutes early.

If applicable, bring your physician referral or prescription, insurance card, paperwork, ID, and co-payment.

At your appointment, we’ll do an initial evaluation and discuss your care plan.

*Services are not available at every location. Visit our Locations page for more details.

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