Anatomy, Treatments, and Physiotherapy Insights


In this blog post, we will delve into the anatomy of the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). One
of the most used, yet ignored joints in the body. Clinicians don’t regularly evaluate the TMJ
since it is often not a patient’s primary complaint, when in fact it may be the primary source
of the patient’s symptoms.

The TMJ should be evaluated for all patients who report:

● Headaches (especially in the temporal region)
● Upper cervical pain and stiffness
● Dizziness
● Local pain and clicking in the TMJ

Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) dysfunctions are a common source of discomfort and pain,
affecting a significant portion of the population, particularly musculature and disc
dysfunction. The anatomy, function, and musculature of the TMJ are unique and allow
for both hinging and sliding movements, essential for activities such as chewing, speaking,
and yawning.

The primary muscles involved in TMJ function include:

1. Masseter: One of the strongest muscles, it plays a crucial role in elevating the jaw.
2. Temporalis: This fan-shaped muscle assists in elevating and retracting the jaw.
3. Pterygoid Muscles: Comprising medial and lateral pterygoids, these muscles aid in
various jaw movements including side-to-side motion.

TMJ Disc Dysfunction Anatomy:

A critical component of TMJ anatomy is the articular disc, a fibrocartilaginous structure that
cushions the joint which is necessary as the TMJ is the most used joint in the body. The
unique design of the disc prevents early arthritis and maximizes jaw function. In TMJ disc
dysfunction, this disc is often displaced or deformed, leading to symptoms such as pain,
clicking, or limited jaw movement. Causes can include trauma, bruxism (teeth grinding), or

Possible Treatments:
1. Medications: Pain relievers and anti-inflammatories can provide temporary relief.
2. Oral Appliances: Mouthguards or splints can reduce teeth grinding and reposition the jaw.
3. Manual TMJ therapy with Modalities and Home exercise programs (our preferred option)
4. Surgical Options: In severe cases, procedures like arthrocentesis or open joint
surgery may be considered but often as a last resort.

Physiotherapy for TMJ Dysfunctions:

Physiotherapy plays a pivotal role in the management of TMJ dysfunctions.
Key physiotherapy approaches include:

1. Manual Therapy: Techniques such as soft tissue massage and joint mobilization can
alleviate pain and improve mobility.
2. Exercises: Stretching and strengthening exercises for the jaw can enhance muscle
function and reduce symptoms.
3. Education: Patients are educated about posture, jaw movements, and relaxation
techniques to manage symptoms.
4. Ultrasound Therapy: This can help reduce pain and improve joint function by
removing inflammatory agents from the joint.

TMJ, Altea Physiotherapy Prince George BC


TMJ dysfunctions, while challenging, can be effectively managed with a combination of
medical interventions and physiotherapy. Understanding the anatomy and role of
musculature in TMJ function is crucial for effective treatment. With the right approach,
individuals can achieve significant relief from symptoms and improve their quality of life.