What do various healing professions do to treat TMJ issues?
I’m going to try to answer that, to help you be better health-care consumers and know what to expect in terms of results.
By the way, I am a massage therapist who specializes in TMJ work, including intra-oral (inside the mouth) work, in which I’ve had advanced training from three teachers and experience since 2013. I admit, I am biased!
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 do have the skills to release tension in the external jaw and neck muscles.
Maybe that’s all you need, if your jaw pain is mild and intermittent. You will feel better after such sessions.
But if you are really suffering from chronic or more severe jaw pain and dysfunction, you definitely need more than that to get relief. You could 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.
Also, since COVID is still around, ask what their COVID safety protocols are.
Whole-body work can also help, when the TMJ pain is related to your posture (for instance, head forward posture) or to muscle tension due to stress.
Here’s a look at results you might expect from working with practitioners in different professions:
- 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 (massage therapist)
- doing myofascial release on your external jaw muscles (massage therapist)
- releasing neck tension (massage therapist, physical therapist, chiropractor)
- getting your pelvis aligned and balanced (massage therapist, physical therapist, chiropractor)
- getting your head aligned on top of your spine (chiropractor)
- preventing your teeth from cracking due to grinding (dentist or OTC night guard)
- reducing tension in your internal jaw muscles (massage therapist with special training, physical therapist with special training, Rolfer)
- restoring alignment in the cranial bones (craniosacral therapist)
- repairing or replacing a dysfunctional articular disk (oral surgeon)
- getting whole-body therapy to help with alignment issues and release strain patterns (craniosacral therapist, Rolfer, Zero Balancer, yoga teacher, yoga therapist)
There is one major caveat here: these are generalities based on my own knowledge and experience. Each profession has its specialties. Not all physical therapists work on the jaw or pelvis — in fact, not many do.
Do not hesitate to ask questions and do your own research.
This is a brief and imperfect overview to help you get the results you want, and there are many fine points not mentioned here.