TMJ / TMD Therapy

Tempromandibular Joint (TMJ) Disorder – TMD

The TMJ joint guides jaw movement. Problems with the TMJ are known as temporomandibular joint disorder or dysfunction (TMD). TMD is very common and affects more than 10 million people in the United States.

Causes of TMD

Bad posture habits:

One of the reasons TMD is so common is because many of us spend a great deal of time sitting at a desk, where we often hold our head too far forward as we work. But there are many other kinds of bad posture. Sitting in the car for a long commute, working at a checkout station, cradling a telephone receiver against the same shoulder for long periods of time. This forward head position puts strain on the muscles, disks and ligaments of the TMJ. The jaw is forced to rest in an open position, and the chewing muscles become overused.

Chronic jaw clenching at night: Many people clench their jaws at night while they sleep, usually because of stress. This puts a strain on the TMJ because of the constant strain on the joint and surrounding muscles.

Problems with teeth alignment: If your teeth come together in an unusual way, greater stress is placed on you TMJ.


In a traumatic accident involving the face or head, a fracture to the lower jaw may result, and even after the fracture is fully healed, TMJ stiffness and pain may remain. Surgery: Following surgery to the face and jaw, there may be a loss in mobility and function of the TMJ.

Trismus (lockjaw):

Occurs when jaw muscles spasm and the jaw cannot fully open, this can be both a cause and a symptom of TMD. Causes of trismus include trauma to the jaw, tenanus, and radiation therapy to the face and neck.

Common TMD Symptoms

  • Jaw pain
  • Jaw fatigue
  • Difficulty opening your mouth to talk or eat
  • Ringing in your ears
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Popping sounds in your jaw
  • Neck pain
  • Locking jaw


To identify the cause of symptoms, your physical therapist will first:

Review your medical history, and discuss any previous surgery, fractures, or other injuries to your head, neck or jaw. Conduct a physical examination of your jaw and neck.

Your physical therapist will evaluate your posture and assess how your neck moves. The therapist will also examine the TMJ to determine how well it can open and close in order to identify abnormalities.

How can a Physical Therapist help with TMJ Disorder?

Casey Canturbury, PT

Your physical therapist can help restore the natural movement of your jaw and decrease your pain by utilizing posture education, jaw strengthening and manual therapy techniques. If your therapist finds that your jaw pain is related to alignment of your teeth, they will refer you to your dentist for further evaluation.

Casey Canterbury, PT, DPT, ATC joined APTS in January of 2018. She earned her Doctor of Physical Therapy degree from Campbell University after receiving her Bachelor of Science degree in athletic training at Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, TN. Casey has special interest in treating tempromandibular dysfunction.