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  • Functional Physiotherapy

Temporomandibular Dysfunction (Jaw Pain!)

Updated: Feb 8, 2020

What is the Temporomandibular Joint?

The jaw! is a synovial joint (Therefore can become inflamed) it has 3 supporting ligaments, a fibrocartilage disc (meniscus), joint space filled with synovial fluid and many muscles which control movement

Movements of the Temporomandibular joint


  1. Depression (opening)

  2. Elevation (closing)

  3. Protrustion (Jaw coming forwards)

  4. Retraction (jaw coming back to rest)

  5. Small amount of lateral movement

Symptoms of Temporomandibular Dysfunction (TMD)

  1. Pain around the jaw or referred into the ear, behind the eye or into the head (headache)

  2. Ringing in the ear or dizziness

  3. Referred pain into the neck

  4. Clicking or locking of the jaw and limitation in movement

Causes of Temporomandibular Dysfunction

  1. Teeth grinding or clenching – puts increased wear on the cartilage (disc). There should always be several millimeters between back molars when jaw is at rest

  2. Habitual chewing, only chewing on one side or nail biting

  3. Postural habits

  4. Trauma to the facial bones

  5. Stress and tension

  6. Dental problems (E.g. braces may have caused gradual trauma)

Temporomandibular joint and the Cervical Spine

  1. Closely linked, C1 is located just behind the disc of the jaw

  2. Suboccipital tension (Tension in the back of the head) and Temporomandibular pain are often seen together

  3. Headaches from the suboccipital region can refer into the jaw and vice versa

Treatment of the Temporomandibular Joint

  1. Treatment of the cervical spine may be required

  2. Adjustments to posture

  3. Soft tissue releases of the jaw muscles

  4. Habitual changes

Jaw warnings:

  1. Chew on both sides

  2. Avoid chewing too hard or very chewy foods

  3. Relax the jaw to avoid clenching when stressed

  4. Avoid lying on your side to sleep (the side you lay on will be tighter)

  5. Consider a night splint if you grind your teeth

  6. Self release techniques (As taught by your physiotherapist)

Written by Ashley Holliday


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