TMJ disfunction - overview, symptoms

The temporomandibular joint is a hinge that connects your jaw to your skull. When that joint is injured or damaged, it can lead to temporomandibular joint (TMJ) syndrome.

Some of the common causes of TMJ disfunction include teeth grinding, stress, arthritis, gum chewing and injury to the teeth or jaw.


  • Pain or tenderness in your jaw
  • Pain in and around your ear
  • Difficulty chewing
  • Facial pain
  • Difficulty opening or closing your mouth

TMJ treatment options

Physical therapy is a common choice for those suffering with TMJ disfunction. Here at Rise, we first do an assessment of your entire body to determine the cause of the pain. TMJ disfunction can be caused by a multitude of problems so the key is determining the root cause and then beginning treatment.

What does physical therapy treatment for TMJ disfunction look like?

At RISE we'll work to help you restore the natural movement of your jaw and decrease your pain. Based on your condition, your therapist will select treatments that will work best for you. Your treatments may include:  

  • Posture education: Your physical therapist will teach you to be aware of your posture so that you can improve the resting position of your jaw, head, neck, breastbone, and shoulder blades when you’re sitting and walking.
  • Improving jaw movement: Physical therapists use skilled hands-on techniques (manual therapy) to gently increase movement and relieve pain in tissues and joints. Your physical therapist may use hands on techniques to stretch the jaw in order to restore normal joint and muscle flexibility.
  • Your physical therapist will teach you special “low-load” exercises that don’t exert a lot of pressure on your TMJ and will work to restore a more natural, pain-free motion.
  • Referral to a dentist: Your physical therapist can refer you to a dentist who specializes in TMJ disfunction, who can correct the alignment with special appliances such as “bite guards” that create a natural resting position to relax the TMJ, relieve pain, and improve jaw function

Our end goal is that you are able to walk away pain-free in the short term and also possess the know-how to avoid TMJ disfunction in the future.

About Rise Physical Therapy

Hi, and welcome to Rise Physical Therapy.

Rise exists because we believe there is a demand for honest and ethical therapy that truly makes a difference in people's lives. After years of working in healthcare, we realized that the industry had lost it's focus on the patient. So we decided to start our own clinic and focus on providing our patients high quality care, each and every day. We wouldn't have it any other way.

Thanks for swinging by the site, and we hope to see you soon.

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Most common questions about physical therapy

1. What is physical therapy (PT)? – Physical therapists, sometimes called PTs, are experts in the musculoskeletal system, meaning we know your muscles, bones, joints, tendons, ligaments and how they operate as well as anyone. We play a critical role in the recovery and rehabilitation of the injured, hurting, or those suffering chronic conditions. Becoming a Doctor of Physical Therapy (the only type of PTs we hire at Rise), requires over seven years of education.

2. Is PT covered by insurance? Almost all insurance plans give you an annual allowance of PT visits. For our current patients, that has typically meant a copay of around $15-$30/visit. Sometimes it’s lower, or even completely covered by insurance. Depending on your plan you might pay a bit more, such as when your plan has a higher deductible. If you are unsure, give us a call and our insurance experts can help you figure it out. You can reach us at (479) 442-7473.

3. Do you need a doctor’s referral for PT?No referral is needed – you can come straight in to see us without having to go to your doctor. Years ago a referral was required, but studies like this showed it was dramatically more effective and cheaper for patients to be sent to PTs first. The state of Arkansas has not required them for over 20 years (since 1997).

4. Does physical therapy work? – The only question that matters. Here’s what a recent large study found: “In the year following their initial complaint to primary providers, the sample of people in the study who went to physical therapy directly spent an average of $1,871, compared to $6,664 for those who were first sent for an MRI. The patients who received physical therapy first were less likely to receive surgery and injections, and they made fewer specialists and emergency department visits within a year of primary consultation.” [link] So not only does it work, it saves you money over the long run.

5. How much does PT cost? – We actually went ahead and ran the numbers on this one. If you include all of our past patients, the average payment after insurance was $19.25. So anywhere from $15 – $30 is a fairly accurate estimate of how much you’d be looking at paying per visit. That said, some patients actually get PT completely covered by insurance so you may end up paying $0.

6. What is the difference between a PT and a chiropractor? – There are quite a few, but the biggest difference is in the way the professions approach the practice of medicine. Physical therapists strictly use evidence-based (scientific) treatments that are focused on healing the patient permanently rather than temporarily dulling pain. At Rise, we are all about educating you on how to treat and address your issues on your own with stretches and exercises. On the other hand, Chiropractors tend to focus on pain relief techniques like spinal manipulation (adjustment) that are performed on an ongoing basis. It just comes down to what you desire in a treatment.

More questions? Read through the rest of our frequently asked questions here or give us a call at (479) 442-7473.