TMJ - Jaw Pain

john miller physiotherapist

Article by John Miller


Temporomandibular Joint Pain 

Also known as: TMJ Dysfunction (TMD)

TMJ dysfunction is an intermittent or chronic musculoskeletal disorder of your jaw motion. In particular, TMD is the abnormal motion of your TMJ - temporomandibular joint. 

TMJ disorder most commonly results in orofacial or jaw pain, jaw headache or a clicking jaw. If your jaw clicks, locks open or closed, grates (crepitus) or is painful you almost certainly have a TMJ disorder. 

Health professionals who can assist your TMJ dysfunction or jaw pain include your Dentist, Orthodontist, Dental Prosthetist, Oral Maxillofacial Surgeon, and TMJ Physiotherapist. 

What are the Health Professional Strengths?

As a general rule your TMJ health professionals will focus on the following:


  • Review you bite and may prescribe a bite plate to assist jaw occlusion (closing) over a period of weeks or months. 


  • Review you bite and may prescribe a teeth alignment techniques eg braces to assist jaw occlusion (closing). Period: months to years.

Dental Prosthetist

  • False teeth only
  • Review you bite and may prescribe or modify your denture to assist jaw occlusion (closing) over a period of weeks or months. 

Oral Maxillofacial Surgeon

  • Review your TMJ and may offer surgical correction to assist jaw function over a period of weeks or months. 
  • Patients tend to be acute trauma patients eg broken jaw or chronic TMJ sufferers.

TMJ Physiotherapist

  • TMJ physiotherapists have special training in TMJ motion and its correction.
  • Review your TMJ motion:
    • Increase jaw mobility where stiffness exists.
    • Relax hypertonic muscles.
    • Dynamically control excessive motion where hypermobility exists.
    • Normalise TMJ motion via specific exercises where abnormal movement patterns exist. 
    • Analyse and correct the influence of your neck posture and motion on your TMJ function.
  • Period: weeks to months. Researchers have found that 75% of conservatively managed TMJ treatment will succeed within 3 months. Another study found that 33% will spontaneously recover over a period of 5 years. 

TMJ Physiotherapy

TMJ physiotherapists have additional training and professional skills in the assessment and management of TMJ dysfunction and jaw pain. PhysioWorks has several physiotherapists with a special interest in TMJ dysfunction. 

Please contact your nearest clinic to determine the best TMJ physiotherapist for you.

Call PhysioWorks

Book Online

Common Sources of TMJ Dysfunction or Jaw Pain

TMJ or jaw pain can occur as a result of various multi-factorial reasons. Having said that, most TMJ dysfunction resulting in jaw pain or clicking jaw results from two main causes: jaw opening or closing.


TMJ Dysfunction - Abnormal Opening 

Most TMJ dysfunction that occurs results in an inability to open your jaw normally, fully and evenly (left vs right). Luckily nearly all opening dysfunctions respond extremely quickly and favourably to physiotherapy assessment and intervention since teeth occlusion is not an issue.

TMJ Dysfunction - Abnormal Closing 

Closing dysfunction can be due to both a teeth occlusion and an inability of the TMJ to close normally. If the problem is simply a stiff joint or poor muscle timing then physiotherapy treatment will be very successful. However, if teeth occlusion issues are discovered, then you will be referred to a dental surgeon for a bite occlusion assessment.

More Potential Causes of TMJ or Jaw Pain

  • Cluster Headaches
  • Cramps
  • Facet Joint Pain
  • Migraine
  • Muscle Strain
  • Neck Headache
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Temporomandibular Joint Pain (TMJ)
  • Tension Headache
  • Wry Neck
  • How Quickly Does Physiotherapy Relieve TMJ Dysfunction?

    The good news is that your TMJ physiotherapist will start treating your TMJ dysfunction, muscle tightness or coordination issue that same day as they assess you. If your TMJ dysfunction is one of the categories that physiotherapy assists, you'll usually leave the clinic with very significant improvement or full resolution after your very first treatment consultation. 

    Alternatively, if we assess you and discover that your TMJ dysfunction will not respond to physiotherapy, we'll happily refer you to the most appropriate health professional to assist you achieve the quickest result.

    If you've suffered TMJ dysfunction, jaw pain, clicking jaw, jaw locking, jaw headache or grating and it hasn't improved with other TMJ treatment options, please call PhysioWorks today and ask for an appointment with one of our TMJ physiotherapists.

    Call PhysioWorks

    Book Online

    What is Normal TMJ Movement?

    TMJ Motion TMJ Motion (827 KB)

    TMJ Treatment

    After a thorough examination from a physiotherapist trained in TMJ dysfunction, you will commonly be treated with an individualised treatment program that may include:

    Common TMJ or Jaw Pain Treatment Options

  • Early Injury Treatment
  • Avoid the HARM Factors
  • What to do after a Muscle Strain or Ligament Sprain?
  • Acupuncture and Dry Needling
  • Sub-Acute Soft Tissue Injury Treatment
  • Biomechanical Analysis
  • Proprioception & Balance Exercises
  • Medications?
  • Soft Tissue Massage
  • Brace or Support
  • Deep Neck Stabilisation Exercises
  • Dry Needling
  • Electrotherapy & Local Modalities
  • Heat Packs
  • Joint Mobilisation Techniques
  • Kinesiology Tape
  • Physiotherapy Instrument Mobilisation (PIM)
  • Prehabilitation
  • Strength Exercises
  • Supportive Taping & Strapping
  • TENS Machine
  • Video Analysis
  • FAQs about TMJ or Jaw Pain

  • Common Physiotherapy Treatment Techniques
  • What is Pain?
  • Physiotherapy & Exercise
  • Can Kinesiology Taping Reduce Your Swelling and Bruising?
  • Heat Packs. Why Does Heat Feel So Good?
  • What is a TENS Machine?
  • What is Chronic Pain?
  • What is Musculoskeletal Physiotherapy?
  • What is Nerve Pain?
  • What is Sports Physiotherapy?
  • What is the Correct Way to Sit?
  • What to expect when you visit PhysioWorks?
  • Why Kinesiology Tape Helps Reduce Swelling and Bruising Quicker
  • Buy Helpful Products for TMJ or Jaw Pain

    Jaw Injuries

    Call PhysioWorks

    Book Online

    Share this page

    Last updated 18-Jan-2018 11:12 PM

    Receive Special Offers and the Latest Injury Information

    Enter Details Below to Signup:

    Receive Special Offers and the Latest Injury Information

    Enter Details Below to Signup:

    PhysioWorks does not endorse companies or products who choose to advertise on this website. Advertising revenue supports the free access to our educational content and its updates. Check out the links below for more specific health information from your trusted PhysioWorks team.

    Share this page