HOW TO: Treat TMD/TMJ (TMJD) Patients With Massage Therapy


Tmj Patients

What is TMD & TMJ (TMJD)?

As a massage therapist, you have likely had clients with temporomandibular joint (TMJ) dysfunction or will meet someone who suffers from TMJ if you are practicing to become a massage therapist. The likelihood of this is high because as many as 65% – 85% of Americans experience TMJ symptoms at some point during their lives, while 30-40% of the general population experiences clicking, popping or other sounds in the jaw joints during jaw movement.

Symptoms include pain and muscle spasms in the head, mandible, neck and shoulder muscles; headaches; earaches; clicking noises or deviations when the mandible moves; limited ability to open the mouth; and dizziness.

“Temporomandibular disorders (TMD) occur as a result of problems with the jaw, jaw joint, and surrounding facial muscles that control chewing and moving the jaw. These disorders are often incorrectly called TMJ, which stands for temporomandibular joint.” – Mayo Clinic

Causes of TMJD

Although the actual cause of TMD is not 100% certain, dentists and doctors believe that symptoms can develop from problems with the muscles of the jaw or with the parts of the joint itself. Other times, injury to the jaw, temporomandibular joint, or muscles of the head and neck — such as from a heavy blow or whiplash — can cause TMD. Other possible causes include: (Source: WebMD)

  • Stress and anxiety, which can cause a person to tighten facial and jaw muscles or clench the teeth
  • Grinding or gritting the teeth, which puts a lot of pressure on the TMJ (also known as “Bruxism”).
  • Presence of osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis in the TMJ
  • Dislocation of the soft cushion or disc between the ball and socket

Treatment for TMJ

Treatments for TMJ disorder includes: splint therapy, analgesics, surgery, stress management, acupuncture, trigger point therapy, hydrotherapy and last but certainly not least, massage therapy.

Massage therapy has in fact become one of the most widely accepted solutions for treating TMJD patients because it has significantly fewer health risks than any other TMJD treatment. The Center of Health Research in Oregon reported that the majority of respondents who used various complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) treatments, especially massage therapy, to treat their TMJD demonstrated major reduction or elimination of pain and tension within their jaw muscles as well as an overall improvement in the jaw joint mobility.

When treating TMJD, a massage therapist should first assess the muscle and facial asymmetries of the patient in order to work on reducing the tension of the masticator (chewing muscles) to eliminate trigger points or “knots” in the muscle fascia surrounding the jaw area. Various massage techniques can provide holistic and effective treatment for TMJD. A knowledgeable therapist who understands musculoskeletal disorders can facilitate a customized therapy to address a client’s special needs.

At Southern California Health Institute in Los Angeles, our certified massage therapists will happily provide massage therapy for TMJD patients. If you’re interested or want to speak to a Massage Therapist, please contact us at 818-980-8990

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