Adelaide Jaw Physiotherapy

What is the TMJ

TMJ refers to the jaw joint, known as the temporomandibular joint. 

So, what is TMD?

TMD refers to disorders of the temporomandibular (jaw) joint, often referred to as temporomandibular dysfunction or disorders. 

The jaw joint is found at the side of the face, just in front of the ear and can be felt whilst opening and closing the mouth. It is an anatomically complex joint and one of the few joints in the body that has a small disc between the bones.

Common symptoms

Jaw, facial pain and headache can be extremely painful and disabling. Someone with TMD might experience one or more of the following:

  • discomfort in the jaw or face
  • clicking, grating or other noises in the joint during actions such as chewing or yawning
  • unevenness or deviation in movements of the jaw
  • locking or sticking, or a feeling of the jaw being out of position – may be prolonged or brief
  • limited opening or stiffness
  • headaches and / or dizziness
  • earache or a feeling of ear blockage
  • worn teeth, unexplained toothache
  • bruxing (grinding of the teeth during sleep)
  • clenching or tension in the facial jaw or muscles
  • muscular neck and shoulder tension

What causes TMD?

There are many causes of jaw pain, including jaw joint (the temporomandibular joint or TMJ) problems and under or over activity of the jaw, facial or neck muscles.

Postural factors, work ergonomics and emotional or study/work-related stress can be big contributing factors.

Although symptoms may appear suddenly, they are usually a result of stresses to the joint or muscles which have accumulated over a period of time.

Common causes and predisposing factors are:


  • a direct blow to the face,chin or jaw area
  • biting into something awkwardly
  • whiplash or other indirect trauma
  • dental or surgical trauma


  • clenching or bruxing
  • postural stress / tension
  • abnormal muscular habits or use
  • sudden changes in occlusion


  • hereditary abnormalities
  • arthritis

Dental issues and other disease or illness can also contribute. So we encourage sufferers to see their GP of dentist in the first instance for a thorough medical and oral check. Sometimes your doctor might suggest that you see an ENT specialist or an oral surgeon next. The may require you to have some special tests to determine the cause and to rule other factors out.

Can TMD be cured?

In almost all cases, TMD can be alleviated and the problem can be managed effectively. Because it is a chronic condition, changes in lifestyle and habits are necessary to get a good, sustainable result from treatment.

Physiotherapy can be a very effective measure for some people with jaw pain. This can help to regain mobility, stretch, strengthen and relax muscles and help identify and treat other contributing factors such as neck problems. Essential is a thorough assessment, clear communication and a clear logical strategy. Many people benefit from a daily program of home exercises and strategies, with periodic follow up from their physiotherapist.

Some people have to learn to live with some inconvenience (eg: a click or occasional discomfort) especially if there is joint damage. We are able to teach ways to minimise these inconveniences. In a few very rare cases, surgery is a viable option. As a rule, the sooner you can address the problem, the easier it will be to improve.

Treatment of TMD

Our initial assessment consultation for jaw pain and headache clients is one hour duration. We encourage you to bring in any scans or xrays. Also bring your questions and we will do our best to answer them or find the answers for you.

Treatment is best shared between dentists and / or dental specialist and a physiotherapist who has an in-depth understanding of the joint function.

Contact Us

439 Fullarton Road Highgate SA 5063
T: 8271 8622