What is TMD and TMJ?

The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is the joint of the jaw where the lower jaw (mandible) meets the skull below the temples. Temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMD) is a combination of jaw pain, neck pain, headaches, and earaches associated with unhealthy movement patterns , clicking, popping or locking of the jaw. These disorders affect nearly 10 million Americans, but can be effectively managed through physical therapy.

Physical Therapy and TMD

Research has shown that physical therapy can help manage jaw pain related to TMD. In order to provide you with the best care, your physical therapist will perform an evaluation of your jaw and neck and determine the treatment pathway that fits YOUR specific dysfunction.

At Body One, we emphasize education of the condition to our patients as the first step of management. Further, we will explore areas such as posture correction, diet, mobilization and relaxation, and overall joint strength and flexibility. We believe in working with your dentist or orthodontist to provide the best advice and care possible.

Common Causes

  • Trauma from a dental procedure, direct blow to the head, face, or jaw, or whiplash from a car accident.
  • Poor posture from sitting most of the day at work or at home.
  • Stress that causes clenching of the jaw during the day or bruxing at night.
  • Osteoarthritis – more stress on the joint than able to handle.

Common Symptoms

  • Pain in the chewing muscles and/or jaw joint or jaw muscle stiffness.
  • Noticeable and frequent clicking, popping, or locking of the jaw while eating or talking.
  • Frequent headaches that could be similar to tension headaches.
  • Ear fullness, earaches, or ringing in the ears.

CAUTION: Jaw pain also can be a symptom of heart attack. Seek medical care immediately if jaw pain is accompanied by:

  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness
  • Left arm pain
  • Numbness in the left arm
  • Nausea

Our TMD specialists have provided multiple educational presentations for Dental Professionals regarding physical therapy for TMJ dysfunction. If you, your dental practice or professional organization would be interested in having one of our therapists present on this topic, please contact us at or


Featured Real-Life Experience

Katherine is a professional musician with a busy day filled with lengthy personal practice sessions and teaching student lessons. She spends many hours sitting or standing with her clarinet, sometimes hanging from a support strap around her neck while she plays. At some point she started feeling stiffness in the jaw and neck area, which was soon followed by pain and discomfort. She played through it.