PHYSICAL THERAPY FOR TEMPOROMANDIBULAR DISORDERS (TMD)
Temporomandibular dysfunction (TMJ disorder) is a lack of function between the upper and lower jaws. It can be caused by accidents, surgery, developmental defects, oral habits, extensive dental restorations, malocclusion (poor bite), orthodontics, psychological stress, clenching or grinding of teeth, or other conditions.
Physical Therapy can help your jaw joints to function freely without pain. If you follow the treatment below, you will relax your chewing muscles, reduce severe headaches, and prevent related discomfort. This therapy has approximately an 80% success rate for patients with TMD. If physical therapy is not successful, additional treatment may be necessary.
For best results, do the following exercises once a day for 15 minutes. Chose a relaxed time of day, such as right before bed. Use a timer to ensure optimal results.
- HEAT: Place a heating pad (or any heat source) on the painful/stiff areas of your head and neck. Apply for 5 minutes to relax muscles and heat the muscles for the upcoming exercises.
- OPEN-CLOSE: place a closed fist under your chin to gently resist movement. open and close your mouth 30 times (one second to open, one second to close).
- FORWARD-BACKWARD: Place a closed fist on the front of your chin to gently resist movement. Move your lower jaw forward and backward 30 times (one second forward, one second backward).
- RIGHT: Place a closed fist on the front of your chin to gently resist movement. You may have a look in the mirror to complete this. Move your jaw to the right, then return your jaw to a relaxed position 30 times (one second to right, one second to normal position).
- LEFT: Place a closed fist on the front of your chin to gently resist movement. Move your jaw to the left, then return to a relaxed position. Complete this 30 times (one second to left, one second in relaxed position).
- HEAD TURN: You must sit or stand up very straight with a flat back and relaxed shoulders. Turn your head all the way to the right, place the palm of your hand on the left side of your jaw. Every two seconds, push your head slightly farther to the right to stretch the muscles. Then return your head to the original side position. Remember to breathe slowly in and out in a calming manner. Repeat on the left side.
- NECK STRETCH: You must sit or stand up very straight with a flat back and relaxed shoulders. Place right arm straight by your side. Look forward and tilt your head to the left to feel a stretch in the right side of your neck. Breathe out, relax, and hold the stretch for 20 seconds. Return to straight head position. Repeat on the other side for 20 seconds.
- HEAT: Apply heat for another five minutes as directed in #1.
If your dentist has recommended a night guard, please wear this every night. This appliance will assist in making you bite in the correct position. It will place your jaw joint into a relaxed state, therefore allowing the muscles in the face and neck to relax throughout the night. The night guard also protects your teeth from being worn down by clenching and grinding through the night.