I’m going to write about what various healing professions do to treat TMJ issues to help you be good consumers and know what to expect in terms of results. I am a massage therapist who specializes in TMJ work, including intra-oral (inside the mouth) work, in which I’ve had special training.
I want to say up front that most massage therapists do not work inside the mouth, which is where the jaw muscles most likely to be causing TMJ pain are located. Most massage therapists have the skills to release tension in the external jaw and neck muscles. Maybe that’s all you need, if your jaw pain isn’t severe and it comes and goes. You will feel better after such sessions.
But if you are really suffering from chronic or severe jaw pain and dysfunction, you probably want a lot more than that. You will greatly benefit from intra-oral work, which takes special training and experience to do effectively.
Do not hesitate to ask whether a therapist you are considering working with is trained in releasing tension in the internal jaw muscles and uses gloves or finger cots.
Whole-body work can also help, when the TMJ pain is related to your posture (for instance, head forward posture).
These are the major results that help with TMJ symptoms, along with the professional training that can provide them:
- reducing stress (massage therapist, acupuncturist, yoga teacher, meditation teacher)
- reducing tension in your external jaw muscles (massage therapist)
- releasing trigger points in your external jaw muscles (any kind of therapist with trigger point release training)
- releasing your neck tension (massage therapist, physical therapist, chiropractor)
- getting your pelvis aligned and balanced (massage therapist, physical therapist, chiropractor)
- preventing your teeth from cracking due to bruxism (dentist)
- reducing tension in your internal jaw muscles (massage therapist with special training, physical therapist with special training, Rolfer)
- getting craniosacral therapy to restore alignment in the external cranial bones (craniosacral therapist)
- getting craniosacral therapy to restore alignment in the internal cranial bones (craniosacral therapist)
- repairing a torn or perforated articular disk (oral surgeon — get reviews first)
- getting whole-body therapy to help with alignment and release strain patterns (craniosacral therapist, Rolfer, Zero Balancer, yoga teacher, yoga therapist)
This is a brief and imperfect overview to help you get the results you want, and there are many fine points not mentioned here.