Physical therapy is commonly prescribed for patients with TMJ disorder, both as a conservative treatment and after TMJ surgery. Physical therapy is a non-invasive treatment that aims to relax muscles, improve posture, and relieve jaw pain. At the first visit, the physical therapist will do a review of your medical history, including any surgical procedures. He or she will ask you to move the TMJ and will note any issues. This will allow the therapist to form a plan for your care. Many different treatment modalities can be performed by a physical therapist. Often, a combination of many treatments will be used.

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Treatments used by a Physical Therapist:

  • TENS or Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation. Electrical current can be applied to the TMJ area to relieve stiffness and pain.
  • Ultrasound – high frequency sound waves are transferred to the body via a round probe. The sound waves travel into the muscle and generate gentle heat.
  • Iontophoresis – a non-invasive method by which medications (usually steriods and/or lidocaine) can be delivered through the skin.
  • Stretching Exercises – done in the office and at home.
  • Moist heat – Hot packs which increase blood flow, reduce spasm, and relax muscles.
  • Cold Packs – controls inflammation, reduces spasms and pain.
  • Massage – different types of massage may be used to reduce pain and relax muscles.
  • Posture/Ergonomics/Sleeping – Many physical therapists include lessons on posture, ergonomics, and sleeping positions in their sessions.

Physical therapy is a non-invasive treatment for TMJ disorder that may relax muscles, improve posture, and relieve pain. A doctor or dentist can prescribe physical therapy for TMJ disorder, and some insurance companies may cover it. Many oral surgeons also prescribe a regimen of physical therapy after TMJ surgery to regain function of the jaw.

Related Reading:
Insurance Coverage and TMJ Treatment or Surgery