What is TMJ?

TMJ stands for temporomandibular joint. We have two of them, one on either side of our jaw. These joints are the hinge points that move when we open and close our mouths. You can feel the movement by putting the tip of your index fingers just in front of your ears, and then opening and closing your mouth. This blog is here to help you determine how do I know if I have TMJ?

Over the last decade, there has been more recognition regarding the pain and social impact that can occur with dysfunction at these joints. Even more so in the past two years with the introduction of mask-wearing during the COVID-19 pandemic. Medically, we call this “TMD” which stands for temporomandibular dysfunction. You might find yourself with new-onset or worsening jaw pain and may be wondering if you have TMD. The following is a checklist of things to consider when trying to determine if you should seek treatment for TMD.

  1. You have pain in your jaw, face, or head when you eat or chew food and may find yourself actively avoiding certain foods.
  2. You have pain in your jaw, face, or head and feel like you have a limit to how much you can talk or even smile.
  3. You have pain, cracking, popping, or grinding in your jaw joints when you open and close your mouth.
  4. You have limited mouth opening and may find you can’t eat larger foods like a hamburger, apple, or, in severe cases, open enough for proper oral care.
  5. You find yourself unable to concentrate or sleep due to jaw, face, or head pain.
  6. You get frequent headaches-this may be a separate or related issue to TMD, but these typically are found together

Can physical therapy help TMD dysfunction?

In many cases, physical therapy can be very helpful in treating TMD. Like any other area of pain and dysfunction, we will assess the limitations present and treat the associated restrictions and weaknesses through education, stretching and strengthening exercises, and manual therapy techniques. In addition, we will give you some tools for self-management should flare-ups in your symptoms occur.

TMD can have significant social implications and affect the quality of life if you struggle to eat, talk, socialize, sleep, and perform proper oral care. Our clinic has been successfully treating and managing TMD for over 30 years. We have developed a network of area dentists and TMD specialists that we work with to collaboratively ensure you receive the best care. If you are suffering from pain or questioning whether or not you could benefit from treatment, call one of our clinics for an evaluation with any of our skilled TMJ-trained therapists.



Penelope works with a wide array of patient populations. Her extensive background allows her to successfully improve the quality of life for patients suffering from chronic pain conditions. She also has strong experience in neurological rehab, sports medicine, orthopedic care, and women's health.