Skip to main navigation Skip to main content Skip to footer For Medicare For Providers For Brokers For Employers Español For Individuals & Families: For Individuals & Families Medical Dental Other Supplemental Explore coverage through work How to Buy Health Insurance Types of Dental Insurance Open Enrollment vs. Special Enrollment See all topics Shop for Medicare plans Member Guide Find a Doctor Log in to myCigna
Home Knowledge Center Wellness Library Physical Therapy for Temporomandibular Disorders

Physical Therapy for Temporomandibular Disorders

Treatment Overview

A physical therapist can develop a program for you that includes learning and practicing techniques for regaining normal jaw movement.

The focus of physical therapy for temporomandibular disorders (TMDs) is relaxation, stretching, and releasing tight muscles and scar tissue. Physical therapy is an especially important part of recovery from TM joint surgery, as it helps minimize scar tissue formation and muscle tightness.

Physical therapy techniques may include:

  • Jaw exercises to strengthen muscles and improve flexibility and range of motion.
  • Heat therapy to improve blood circulation in the jaw.
  • Ice therapy to reduce swelling and relieve pain.
  • Massage to relieve overall muscle tension.
  • Training to improve posture and correct jaw alignment.
  • Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), which is the application of a mild electrical current to the skin over the jaw joint. This electrical current is thought to interfere with the body's pain signals. TENS relaxes muscles, improves blood circulation, and relieves pain. The effectiveness of TENS varies, but it seems to work for some people.
  • Movement of the temporomandibular (TM) joint to release scar tissue that restricts muscle movement and to improve range of motion.
  • Ultrasound therapy, which uses high-frequency sound waves directed to the TM joint, to reduce pain and swelling and improve circulation.
What To Expect After Treatment

What To Expect After Treatment

After a physical therapy session, you should rest the jaw, try to control habits that cause jaw pain, and avoid chewing foods that stress the joint.

Why It Is Done

Why It Is Done

Physical therapy:

  • Is frequently used in combination with medicine, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or muscle relaxants.
  • May be recommended if symptoms are not relieved with home treatment and are related to muscle tension.
  • Is used after surgery to promote healing and reduce pain and swelling.
How Well It Works

How Well It Works

Physical therapy is important to the success of both surgical and nonsurgical treatments for TMDs.footnote 1

Risks

Risks

Any therapy that involves physical movement of the jaw may make joint problems worse. And this therapy must be done by an experienced professional.

What To Think About

What To Think About

Do not begin physical therapy and jaw exercises to improve jaw range of motion until your doctor has determined what type of TM joint problem you have and what jaw structures are affected.

References

References

Citations

  1. Scrivani SJ, et al. (2008). Temporomandibular disorders. New England Journal of Medicine, 359(25): 2693–2705.

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated, disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. Learn how we develop our content.

© 1995-2022 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.

<cipublic-spinner variant="large"><span>Loading…</span></cipublic-spinner>

Page Footer

I want to...

Get an ID card File a claim View my claims and EOBs Check coverage under my plan See prescription drug list Find an in-network doctor, dentist, or facility Find a form Find 1095-B tax form information View the Cigna Glossary Contact Cigna

Audiences

Individuals and Families Medicare Employers Brokers Providers

Secure Member Sites

myCigna member portal Health Care Provider portal Cigna for Employers Client Resource Portal Cigna for Brokers

Cigna Company Information

About Cigna Company Profile Careers Newsroom Investors Suppliers Third Party Administrators International Evernorth

 Cigna. All rights reserved.

Privacy Legal Product Disclosures Cigna Company Names Customer Rights Accessibility Non-Discrimination Notice [PDF] Language Assistance [PDF] Report Fraud Sitemap

Disclaimer

Individual and family medical and dental insurance plans are insured by Cigna Health and Life Insurance Company (CHLIC), Cigna HealthCare of Arizona, Inc., Cigna HealthCare of Illinois, Inc., and Cigna HealthCare of North Carolina, Inc. Group health insurance and health benefit plans are insured or administered by CHLIC, Connecticut General Life Insurance Company (CGLIC), or their affiliates (see a listing of the legal entities  that insure or administer group HMO, dental HMO, and other products or services in your state). Accidental Injury, Critical Illness, and Hospital Care plans or insurance policies are distributed exclusively by or through operating subsidiaries of Cigna Corporation, are administered by Cigna Health and Life Insurance Company, and are insured by either (i) Cigna Health and Life Insurance Company (Bloomfield, CT); (ii) Life Insurance Company of North America (“LINA”) (Philadelphia, PA); or (iii) New York Life Group Insurance Company of NY (“NYLGICNY”) (New York, NY), formerly known as Cigna Life Insurance Company of New York. The Cigna name, logo, and other Cigna marks are owned by Cigna Intellectual Property, Inc. LINA and NYLGICNY are not affiliates of Cigna.

All insurance policies and group benefit plans contain exclusions and limitations. For availability, costs and complete details of coverage, contact a licensed agent or Cigna sales representative. This website is not intended for residents of New Mexico.

Selecting these links will take you away from Cigna.com to another website, which may be a non-Cigna website. Cigna may not control the content or links of non-Cigna websites. Details