The Role of Physiotherapy in Managing TMJ Disorders

physiotherapy for tmj edmonton west

The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is a small yet crucial part of our anatomy that influences daily functions such as eating, speaking, and expressing emotions. When this joint is compromised, the consequences can extend far beyond mere discomfort, affecting overall quality of life. In this comprehensive guide, we explore the multifaceted causes of TMJ disorders and spotlight the role of physiotherapy in providing effective relief.

Understanding the temporomandibular joint (TMJ)

The TMJ is where the jawbone meets the skull, facilitating movement and function of the jaw. Disorders affecting this joint can lead to pain, restricted movement, and a host of other symptoms, making diagnosis and treatment vital.

The main causes of TMJ disorders

TMJ disorders, characterized by pain and dysfunction in the temporomandibular joint, stem from a variety of causes. Understanding these can aid in more targeted and effective treatments. Below are comprehensive insights into the primary contributors to TMJ disorders.

Teeth grinding (bruxism) and jaw clenching

Bruxism, commonly known as teeth grinding, is a prevalent cause, especially during sleep. This involuntary habit exerts excessive pressure on the TMJ, leading to pain and potential damage over time.

Jaw Clenching often occurs subconsciously, especially during periods of stress. Habitual clenching places sustained pressure on the jaw muscles and TMJ, causing discomfort, pain, and limited movement.


Osteoarthritis involves the gradual wear and tear of the joint cartilage, which can affect the TMJ, leading to pain, stiffness, and reduced mobility.

Rheumatoid Arthritis, an autoimmune disorder, causes inflammation within the joints. In the TMJ, this can result in pain, dysfunction, and even changes to the joint’s structure.

Trauma or injury

Direct trauma to the head or jaw, such as from sports injuries, accidents, or physical altercations, can lead to immediate or delayed TMJ disorders. The impact may alter the alignment of the TMJ or damage its components.

Post-surgical effects are also notable, especially after procedures requiring prolonged mouth opening or those involving facial structures. This can strain the TMJ, causing discomfort and limited function.


High levels of stress contribute to muscular tension around the jaw. This tension can exacerbate teeth grinding and jaw clenching, further stressing the TMJ and leading to a cycle of pain and dysfunction.

Chronic static/prolonged postures

Poor posture, particularly relating to the neck and upper back, can influence TMJ alignment and function. For instance, forward head posture can strain the muscles and ligaments associated with the TMJ, contributing to discomfort and imbalance.


Malocclusion, or misalignment of the teeth, affects how the jawbones meet. This can place uneven stress on the TMJ, leading to pain and potentially altering the joint’s movement patterns.

Muscle overuse

Habits such as chewing gum excessively or chewing predominantly on one side of the mouth can lead to overuse of the jaw muscles. This not only puts undue stress on the TMJ but can also cause muscle fatigue and pain.

Day-to-day habits

Certain daily habits can place extra stress on the TMJ. For example, eating hard foods or nail biting requires significant jaw movement and force, potentially leading to TMJ issues over time.

Understanding these causes is crucial for those suffering from TMJ disorders. By addressing the underlying factors, individuals can achieve significant relief and improve their quality of life.

Can TMJ disorders be treated with physiotherapy?

The answer is a resounding yes. TMJ disorders, affecting an estimated 20-30% of Canadians, can significantly benefit from physiotherapy interventions. However, it’s crucial to seek physiotherapists with specific training and credentials in TMJ treatment, as the joint requires sensitive and expert care.

The CURA Physical Therapies approach

At CURA Physical Therapies, our focus extends beyond mere symptom management. We delve into jaw biomechanics, muscle release, and postural correction. A unique aspect of our care is the collaboration with your dentist, ensuring a cohesive treatment strategy tailored to your needs. Techniques such as joint mobilizations, manual therapy, dry needling, and acupuncture are part of our arsenal to assist you on your journey to recovery.

Activities to avoid with TMJ

Living with TMJ disorders requires mindful lifestyle adjustments. Actions to avoid include nail biting, chewing gum (opt for mints instead), and using teeth as tools. Hard foods should be cut into smaller pieces to ease the strain on the TMJ, and sustaining prolonged poor postures, wide jaw movements, and poking at the sore joint should be avoided to prevent exacerbating pain.

Understanding the healing timeline for TMJ disorders

The journey to recovery from TMJ disorders varies widely among individuals. Factors such as age, the duration and cause of jaw pain, adherence to a comprehensive care plan, and the integration of dental interventions play critical roles in determining recovery timelines. Commitment to lifestyle changes also significantly influences the healing process.

Optimizing sleep with TMJ disorders

While there’s no one-size-fits-all sleeping position for TMJ sufferers, finding a comfortable sleeping posture is key. Incorporating a night guard can be beneficial, particularly for those who grind their teeth. This, along with other lifestyle adjustments, should be discussed with both your physiotherapist and dentist to ensure a holistic approach to your TMJ treatment plan.

Embrace a comprehensive approach to TMJ recovery

TMJ disorders present a complex challenge but with the right professional guidance and personal commitment to treatment and lifestyle adjustments, relief and recovery are achievable. At CURA Physical Therapies, we’re dedicated to providing you with exceptional physiotherapy in Edmonton West, working collaboratively with dental professionals to ensure a coordinated and effective treatment plan. If TMJ pain is impacting your life, reach out to us. Let’s navigate this journey to recovery together.

Don’t let TMJ disorders define your life. At CURA Physical Therapies, our expert team is ready to support you with specialized treatment plans that address your unique needs. Contact us today to start your journey toward a life free from TMJ pain.

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.