TMJ Dysfunction

TMJ dysfunction occurs when the muscles and ligaments around your jaw joints become inflamed or irritated. The condition may be acute or chronic, and the resulting pain may be mild or severe.

Symptoms of temporomandibular disorder include pain around your jaw and a clicking or grinding noise when you move your jaw.

What causes TMJ dysfunction?

Factors that may increase the risk of developing TMJ disorders include:

  • Various types of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.
  • Jaw injury.
  • Long-term (chronic) grinding or clenching of teeth.
  • Certain connective tissue diseases that cause problems that may affect the temporomandibular joint.

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    The aims of physiotherapy are:

    • To reduce pain
    • To minimise stiffness
    • To restore function
    • To teach management strategies

    Treatment techniques can involve:

    • Massage the muscles around the joint
    • Acupuncture
    • Heat or ice for 10 minutes to reduce pain
    • Exercise your jaw regularly with guidance from your physiotherapist
    • Consult your dentist to check if you are grinding your teeth at night
    • Discuss pain relief with your doctor

    Avoid the following:

    • Hard, crunchy and chewy foods such as apples or whole fruits, carrots or corn on the cob. Cut up food into smaller pieces.
    • Chewing gum, pencils or your nails
    • Opening your mouth widely – stifle yawns or use your fist to support your chin as you yawn
    • Resting your mobile/telephone handset between your shoulder and ear
    • Posture and neck movement Sometimes the pain can be made worse by sitting or lying badly, holding your jaw in a bad position or by straining/craning your neck. A stiff neck can also cause pain to be felt in the TMJ. Having an awareness of correcting this posture and keeping your neck mobile and strong can help with your symptoms.

    7 TMJ Exercises to try at home

    • Resisted Opening

      Open your mouth slowly while placing a thumb under your chin and pushing lightly. Hold this for a few seconds before slowly closing your mouth.

    • Resisted Closing

      Place a thumb below your chin and an index finger on the soft ridge between your lower lip and chin. Push lightly down while closing your mouth.

    • Tongue-to roof

      Touch your tongue to the roof of your mouth while you slowly open and close.

    • The Side Slide

      Relax your jaw and close your mouth. Slowly move your jaw to one side while looking to the other. Do not move your head or neck—only your eyes. Hold this for a few seconds before returning to the centre. Repeat on the other side.

    • Wide Stretch

      Relax your jaw and close your mouth. Part your teeth slightly, then open your mouth slowly as wide as you can. Look up and hold for a few seconds before slowly closing.

    • Fist Push

      Place your fist beside your jaw and push against it lightly.

    • Forward Move

      Place something between your front teeth (it should be about ¼ of an inch thick). Move your bottom jaw forward until your bottom teeth move in front of your front teeth. Hold for 20 seconds. To make this more challenging, increase the width of the object.

    TMJ Stretches

    Stretching is another helpful tactic for combating TMJ pain. Proper stretches can help relax the muscles and joint, relieving tension and reducing bothersome symptoms of TMD. However, these should only be done with guidance from your specialist/therapist.

    • Touch the tip of your tongue to the roof of your mouth. Slowly open wide and hold for up to 10 seconds.
    • Touch the tip of your tongue to the roof of your mouth. Slowly move your lower teeth as far in front of your upper teeth as you comfortably can. Hold for up to 10 seconds. Then move your lower jaw back as far as you comfortably can and hold for up to 10 seconds.


    Our Physiotherapy Clinic Services

    The West Wimbledon Physiotherapy Clinic aims to provide a selection of services to maintain and enhance health and wellbeing. Although primarily a physiotherapy clinic, a range of other treatments are available.