Temporomandibular Disorder

Graphic of women stretching with toddlers
Posted November 27, 2020
Caitlin Williams
Physiotherapist, Co-owner of Elora Physiotherapy
BKin(Hon), MSc(PT), MScCl(Manip Ther), DPT, FCAMPT
Have you ever noticed a clicking in your jaw? Especially when eating? Do you ever wake up in the morning and find that your jaw and the surrounding area is sore? Or perhaps you clench your jaw during a stressful situation. Whatever the trigger may be, all these things can lead to jaw pain, or temporomandibular disorder (TMD).

To determine the exact cause behind TMD can be difficult. Factors such as genetics, lifestyle behaviours, poor posture, arthritis or injury to the jaw can all play a role in TMD.

The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is a hinge joint that attaches your jaw to your skull. About 5-12% of people experience pain in this area.1 So if you are having symptoms of TMD, you aren’t alone!

So how can physiotherapy help with TMD? Let’s take a closer look…

Your physiotherapist will perform a thorough assessment regarding your jaw pain. They will look at your range of jaw movement (i.e. how far can you open your jaw), assess the strength of the muscles around your jaw, and perform various tests to find out what exactly is going on.

There are three main types of TMD:

  1. Muscle disorder: This is the most common type. It involves pain in the muscles that control the function of your jaw, neck and shoulder.
  2. Derangement disorders: A degenerative TMD which involves disruption or imbalance in the inner workings of the jaw joint. For example, a dislocation of the disc in your jaw (yes, your jaw has a disc!) or damage to a bone.
  3. Degenerative disorders: This refers to the overall wear and tear of the TMJ though conditions like arthritis, which is deterioration of the cartilage in the joint.

After determining the source(s) of your pain, your physiotherapist will set up a treatment plan which is specific for your needs and goals. This may include exercises, ergonomic adjustments, relaxation techniques, modalities such as acupuncture or even just some lifestyle modifications to prevent your symptoms from occurring. Your physiotherapist may also consult with your dentist during your sessions, especially if he/she feels a mouth guard is necessary to prevent you from grinding and clenching your teeth at night.

Recovery time from TMD varies depending on the severity of your condition. Acute pain can resolve in as quickly as 6 weeks. Whereas more chronic conditions may take more sessions to recover and may require the occasional visit to maintain proper joint movement and prevent reoccurrence.

If you or anyone else you know may be suffering from TMD, please do not hesitate to contact the clinic at 226-384-1100 or email us at info@eloraphysiotherapy.com. We are here to help!


  1. Joseph R, Rahena A, N Hassan, Glen H, James W, et al . Epidemiology of Temporomandibular Disorder in the General Population: a Systematic Review. Adv Dent & Oral Health. 2019; 10(3): 555787.