Understanding Temporomandibular Joint Syndrome (TMJS): Relieving Jaw Pain

What Is Temporomandibular Joint Syndrome (TMJS)?

The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) acts like a hinge, connecting your jawbone to your skull. It facilitates essential movements for speaking, chewing, and yawning. When this joint is impaired, it leads to a condition known as Temporomandibular Joint Syndrome (TMJS).

What Are The Symptoms and Causes Of TMJS

The most common symptoms of TMJS are:

  • Pain or tenderness in the jaw area, particularly near the ear
  • Difficulty or discomfort while chewing
  • Clicking, popping, or grating sounds when opening or closing the mouth
  • Locking of the jaw joint, making it difficult to fully open or close the mouth
  • Facial/jaw or ear pain or headaches, often radiating to the neck and shoulders

There are many causes of TMJS but the 4 most common causes we see are:

  1. Bruxism (Teeth Grinding): Clenching or grinding teeth, particularly during sleep, can strain the TMJ and surrounding muscles.
  2. Stress and Anxiety: Psychological factors can contribute to jaw clenching and muscle tension, exacerbating TMJ symptoms.
  3. Trauma or Injury: Direct impact to the jaw, such as a blow or whiplash injury, can damage the TMJ.
  4. Arthritis: Conditions like osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis can affect the TMJ, causing inflammation and pain.

How Physiotherapists Treat TMJ

Physiotherapists employ various techniques to address TMJ symptoms and improve jaw function:

  • Manual Therapy: Hands-on techniques such as massage, mobilization, dry needling and stretching can alleviate muscle tension and improve joint mobility.
  • Exercise Prescription: Specific exercises target jaw muscles and promote relaxation, strength, and flexibility.
  • Posture Correction: Poor posture can contribute to TMJ dysfunction. Physiotherapists assess and address posture-related issues to relieve strain on the TMJ.
  • Modalities: Therapeutic modalities like heat, ice, ultrasound, and electrical stimulation may be used to reduce pain and inflammation.

Physiotherapy Treatments May Include:

  • Soft tissue massage to relax tight muscles and knots around the jaw
  • Gentle mobilization techniques to improve joint mobility
  • Postural correction exercises to alleviate strain on the TMJ
  • Education on relaxation techniques and stress management strategies
  • Needling to help release tight muscles

3 Home Exercises You Can Do:

1. Jaw Relaxation Exercise: Place the tip of your tongue on the roof of your mouth and slowly open your mouth as wide as comfortable, then close it. Repeat this movement several times, focusing on relaxing the jaw muscles.

2. Resisted Jaw Opening: Place your thumb under your chin and gently push downward as you try to open your mouth against the resistance. Hold for a few seconds, then release. Repeat 5-10 times.

3. Chin Tucks: Sit or stand with good posture. Gently tuck your chin in toward your chest, keeping your eyes level. Hold for a few seconds, then relax. Repeat 10-15 times.


Remember, consistency is key when performing these exercises at home.

To learn more on managing TMJ and improving jaw health, visit our website or schedule a consultation with one of our experienced physiotherapists for individualised treatment and advice.

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