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TMJ vs TMD - what's the difference?!

TMJ vs TMD - is there a difference?! People often say they have "TMJ". Well, technically they are correct...they have a TMJ! TMJ is simply the abbreviation for your TemporoMandibular Joint - it is a joint in your body - like your shoulder or your hip.

TMD, stands for Temporomandibular DYSFUNCTION and is a label for pain and/or discomfort of the TMJ, facial muscles and surrounding tissues/areas.

Now that you are familiar with the difference between TMJ and TMD, let's talk about some TMJ Fun Facts!

  • The TMJ is one of the most hypermobile (so much motion!) and hyperactive joints in the body

  • The TMJ is constantly active throughout the day with talking, chewing, swallowing, yawning

  • The only time (other than chewing) that our teeth should touch is when we swallow

  • TemporoMandibular Dysfunction (TMD) affects women much more often than men

But how does one know if they are experiencing TMD?

Symptoms may include:

  • Clenching, grinding (symptom or cause?)

  • Popping, clicking, locking

  • Tension headaches and/or migraines

  • Pain is worse in the morning (possibly from clenching or grinding at night!)

  • Pain in or around your ear or face

  • Tinnitus (ringing in your ear)

  • Tension in your jaw, head, neck, and/or shoulders

  • Difficult and painful chewing

  • Locking of the joint, difficulty opening and closing your mouth 

Risk Factors

  • Stress and anxiety

  • Lifestyle habits - gum chewer? poor sleep postures? do you bite your nails or lean on your hand while working?

  • Trauma to the face or jaw

  • Dental procedures or repeated adjustments

  • Arthritis or other inflammatory conditions

Okay, great. Now what?!  

You can schedule a TMD Evaluation at O'Brien Physical Therapy with Erica Champlin to determine the root cause of your symptoms. She will guide you through the phases of healing and proactive management of your symptoms:

Phase 1

  • Calm symptoms down

  • Adjust lifestyle and oral habits

  • Posture awareness

  • Manual and soft tissue therapy (FCS)

  • Ultrasound and/or dry needling

Phase 2

  • Reintroduce safe and pain-free movements

  • Gradually introduce lifestyle and oral habits

  • Coordination of jaw movement through exercises

  • Continued passive treatment as needed

Phase 3

  • Return to function

  • Pain free hobbies, sports and activities

Your TMJ does not have to stay a TMD! O'Brien Physical Therapy approaches your healing and recovery as an entire system or puzzle that has to fit and work together for optimum function and well being - the wellness wheel provides a great model:

OPT wellness wheel

All of these factors are a piece of the puzzle that work synergistically to make up YOU.

ALL of them have an impact on how you are feeling and we can create change in any of these areas of our life!

You don't have to do this alone. We are here to support you!

Small steps. Subtle shifts. Big changes.


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