Does adding physical therapy to my splint help TMJ pain?

Does adding physical therapy to my splint help TMJ pain?

To preface this post, the phrase, “Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) pain” can be quite broad.

Medically speaking, we relate this common expression to the umbrella category of Temporomandibular Disorders (TMD).

TMD is defined as a subgroup of craniofacial pain disorders that involve the temporo-mandibular joint, the masticatory muscle system, and associated muscles and soft tissues of the head, face and neck.

A very common treatment for this condition that is prescribed by your dental team are splints or oral appliance. In many instances, just having a splint improves pain and function of your jaw, but in other instances, patients need further therapy options.

Many patients reach out and ask us what treatment options are best and if a combined approach of using a splint appliance and physical therapy can help.

The short answer —- yes! The combined therapy yields greater benefit in pain and function of your jaw! Don’t just take my word from it, but let’s look at some recent medical research!

To confirm my clinical experience, I want to take you to a randomized control trial by Espi-Lopez et al 2020.

The authors examined a combined program of manual therapy techniques, including intraoral treatment, plus traditional splint therapy to see if it improves pain and clinical dysfunction in subjects with TMD.

Here are the conclusions:

  • These results highlight that manual therapy combined with splint therapy can be a more effective treatment.

  • Manual therapy applied both at the cervical spine and the masticatory area may be beneficial in decreasing pain in patients suffering from TMD.

Wow, good news! The addition of two very effective treatments helps you even more! There is hope if you are still having issues even after having a splint!

Therefore, although the use of splints has shown positive effects in patients with TMD in previous studies, adding the manual therapy techniques can yield greater clinical improvements to further help pain and disability!

Therefore, mention this statement to your dentist if you are reading this blog:

The addition of a manual therapy protocol to the traditional splint therapy induces a greater impact on the improvement of the signs and symptoms of TMD.

What does Physical Therapy do for TMJ?

Physical therapy is commonly utilized in the treatment of patients with TMD and TMJ pain, toward the general goals of:

  • reducing adverse loading and pain to the jaw and neck.

  • facilitating a return to full, pain-free function of the jaw and neck.

Manual therapy is a common procedure to help you. At PhysioFit of North Carolina, we utilize several manual therapy procedures, including:

  • joint mobilization / manipulation

  • fascial manipulation / mobilization

  • myofascial (soft tissue) release

We also use techniques to improve range of motion while at the same time eliminating pain. These techniques are intended to allow for pain free motion of the jaw and depending on presentation, has the ability to be applied as home exercises. The exercises are then specific and tailored to you, and not just exercises you find online!

If you are looking for a physical therapist who specializes in these systems, feel free to contact us, click on one of our e-books above or sign up for an appointment to start your recovery