TMJ Dysfunction

Omphysio Service

TMJ dysfunction is also referred to as Jaw Joint dysfunction. Sufferers of TMJ dysfunction usually feel pain around the jaw joint while chewing.

Symptoms of Jaw Joint Dysfunction

Jaw joint dysfunction can cause headaches, facial pain and/or jaw clicking. Jaw joint problems are common, but usually get better quickly with the right treatment.

Your symptoms may include:

  • Pain – This is most likely to be an aching around your ear, and possibly in your cheek bone or neck, and it often relates to the muscles which control the jaw joint
  • Headache
  • Clicking and/or cracking noise (crepitus) in your jaw joint when you move it
  • Jaw locking
  • Stiffness, or being unable to open your mouth properly (trismus)
  • A change in the way your teeth fit together when your jaw is closed

Your symptoms may be worse when you chew or yawn. They may also be worse if you are stressed. Physiotherapy is very useful in TMJ dysfunction. A musculoskeletal physiotherapist trained in TMJ dysfunction can help you relieve your symptoms and pain around the affected jaw joint.

Causes of Jaw Joint Dysfunction

There are three main causes of jaw joint dysfunction. These are:

  • Muscle pain and tension in your face (myofascial pain). Common causes include grinding or clenching your teeth (bruxism), especially at night, biting your nails, holding things between your teeth, stress or injury.
  • Jaw misalignment (internal derangement). This means your jaw is not properly aligned with your skull, so the joint does not work smoothly. This can happen when the articular disc (thin disc within the joint) is in the wrong position, you have had a dislocated jaw, or your jaw joint has been injured.
  • Degeneration of the joint. This is when the jaw joint is affected by arthritis, which happens most commonly in older people. Arthritis can also be caused by injury. Injuries that can trigger jaw joint dysfunction include knocks to your jaw or over-stretching when yawning, or during dental treatment.

Clicking is caused when the cartilage disc within the joint moves forwards out of its usual position when you open your mouth – the clicking is made when it moves back into place as you close your mouth. The noise may seem louder to you because the joint is close to your ear. Your jaw may lock if the cartilage does not return to its usual position after slipping out of place.

Diagnosis of Jaw Joint Dysfunction

Your dentist will usually be able to diagnose jaw joint dysfunction by asking you about your symptoms and your medical and dental history.


Mobilisation and manipulation of the jaw joint with or without acupuncture is usually very helpful. However, you must ensure that a trained musculoskeletal physiotherapist with TMJ knowledge performs the treatment. Omphysio therapists are trained in helping you with your TMJ problems.

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