Physical Therapy for Jaw Problems?

Jaw Problems with the Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) can be treated with physical therapy.

It’s jaw-dropping information, but believe it!

We all know that physical therapists treat the musculoskeletal system - bones, joints and muscles. So that includes knees, backs, shoulders . . . and  jaws?

That’s right. The Temporomandibular Joint, better known as TMJ, is the hinge joint that connects the lower jaw (mandible) to the temporal bone of the skull. It is immediately in front of the ear on each side of your head and is often the culprit for many symptoms of Temporomandibular Disorders (TMD) including:

  • Pain and tenderness in the face, jaw joint area, neck, shoulders and ears during activities like chewing and speaking
  • Limited ability to open the mouth wide, or the joint locks in the open or closed position
  • Clicking or popping sounds
  • Tired feeling in the face
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness 

Tips for dealing with TMD

For the temporary discomfort of TMD, here are some things that can help: 

  • Heat or ice
  • Eat soft foods
  • Medicate to reduce pain and swelling
  • Avoid excessive yawning and chewing 
  • Avoid resting your chin on your hand
  • Keep your teeth apart to relieve pressure on the jaw
  • Improve posture
  • Learn relaxation techniques

What can Physical Therapy Do?

When these basic treatments prove unsuccessful, physical therapy may be the answer! 

Instead of resorting to trigger point injections or surgery, patients can be treated by specially trained physical therapists who utilize soft tissue mobilization, massage, manual therapy, ultrasound and electrostimulation modalities to relieve and correct the symptoms of TMD. 

“I feel most patients appreciate a conservative approach . . .  and a majority of them show improvement after treatment,” says David Feiza, physical therapist at ATI’s Geneva South clinic, who has been practicing physical therapy for 34 years. “Exercises are used to relieve pain and restore function. Emphasis during treatment is focused on self-care techniques, including postural training, since the cervical spine has a strong influence on the TM joints. 

Be an advocate for your own care

  • Talk to your physician, dentist or oral surgeon about PT as an option for your jaw problems. While many involve physical therapy during the care of their patients, yours may not be aware of its benefits. 
  • Post Operatively: Some patients who do take the surgical route are referred by their oral surgeon or orthopedic surgeon to do some post-operative rehab for the joint. This helps improve the outcome of their surgery, so if you are a surgical candidate, be sure you choose a surgeon who recommends PT for his/her patients!
  • Home Exercises: The exercises and stretches learned during physical therapy are a valuable tool that can help you if symptoms should ever return. You will be able to manage symptoms on your own.

Find out if physical therapy could help you

ATI Physical Therapy offers complimentary screenings. However, not all physical therapists have special training to screen for and treat TMD. Please use this list to find a specially trained therapist in your area, and call today to schedule your complimentary screening appointment!


Geneva South (David Feiza) (630) 584-1411

Elgin (Jerry Sullivan) (847) 468-6098

Chicago / Avondale (Christy Anderson) (773) 478-0496

Darien (Themis Raftis) (630) 985-4010

Naperville North (Sue Burton) (630) 355-5255

NW Indy

Valparaiso (Kelly Langan) (219) 462-0576

Central Indy

Lafayette (Linda Hall, Meagan Weigle) (765) 477-6464

Eagle Highland (Tim Murphy) (317) 290-1177

Martinsville (Priya Pockyarath) (765) 349-9255

Bloomington (Marissa Schaeuble) (812) 336-8406

Northeast Indy / Castleton (Frank Klene) (812) 336-8406

Fishers (Nate Mejeur) (317) 813-0148

Noblesville (Kristen Swinehart) (317) 774-7744

East Indy (Beatrice Davis) (317) 890-7700


Bear (Ari Kaplan) (302) 392-3400

Newark Spine / Ortho (Marie Mullen) (302) 894-1800

Millsboro (Dave Pinkerton) (302) 297-0700


Jennersville (Jason Guarneri) (610) 869-2200

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