The Ultimate Guide to Managing Temporomandibular Joint Disorders (TMD & TMJ)

TMD, or temporomandibular disorder, is a condition that causes jaw pain and face pain. It can also make it difficult to open and close your mouth. TMD is often caused by clenching or grinding your teeth, but it can also result from an injury to the jaw or face.

What is Temporomandibular Disorder (TMD & TMJ)

The temporomandibular joint is the hinge that connects your jaw to your skull. It’s what lets you open and close your mouth. Temporomandibular disorder (TMD) is a problem with this joint and the muscles that control it.

For some people, TMD is just a minor annoyance. But for others, it can be excruciating and make it hard to eat, speak, or even yawn. TMD can also cause jaw pain, headaches, neck pain, and dizziness.

There are many different causes of TMD, including injury to the joint, teeth grinding (bruxism), stress, arthritis, and misalignment of the teeth or jaws.  

What Can Cause TMD?

Several factors can contribute to TMD development, such as teeth grinding, misaligned teeth, jaw injury, as well as stress. Let us have a look at the top causes of TMD below:


When stressed, your body goes into “fight or flight” mode. This means that your muscles tense up, and your heart rate and blood pressure increase. This can also happen when you clench or grind your teeth (bruxism).

Over time, this muscle tension can lead to changes in the alignment of your teeth and jaw. It can also cause pain in the TMJ itself, as well as in the surrounding muscles and tissues.


We all know that coffee can give us a much-needed energy boost in the morning, but did you know it can also contribute to TMD? Caffeine is a stimulant that can increase muscle tension and lead to bruxism (teeth grinding).

If you already suffer from TMD, try reducing your caffeine intake or switching to decaf coffee. You might also want to avoid other caffeinated beverages like soda and energy drinks.

Birth Defects

One of the most common causes of TMD is congenital disabilities. This is because the bones and muscles in the face and jaw may not be correctly formed, which can lead to problems with how they function.  

Teeth Clenching

If you’re someone who clenches or grinds their teeth, you may be at risk for TMD. Clenching and grinding can put a lot of stress on your jaw, leading to pain as well as other problems. Talk to your dentist about if you think you may be clenching or grinding your teeth.

Gum Chewing

One possible cause of TMD is gum chewing. Gum chewing can put extra stress on the temporomandibular joints, leading to pain and inflammation. If you chew gum regularly, try to cut back or stop altogether. You may also want to avoid hard foods that require a lot of chewing.


Braces or retainers can sometimes help alleviate pain associated with TMD by correcting misalignments in the teeth. In other cases, splints or night guards may be recommended to protect the teeth from grinding at night. If stress is considered a contributing factor, relaxation techniques such as yoga or meditation may be recommended.


If you’ve ever experienced a sharp pain in your jaw or face, you may be wondering what could be causing it. According to the American Dental Association, one possible cause is trauma.

Trauma to the jaw or face can occur from a fall, car accident, or even something seemingly innocuous, like yawning too hard.

This type of trauma can damage the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), which is the joint that connects your lower jaw to your skull. When this happens, it’s called temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD).

Psychological Factors

Psychological factors include anxiety, depression, and sleep disorders. These conditions can all contribute to TMD by causing the muscles in your jaw to tense up or affecting your bite.


Fibromyalgia is a condition that causes widespread pain and fatigue and can also lead to memory, sleep, and mood problems. While the exact cause of fibromyalgia is unknown, it is thought to be related to changes in how the brain processes pain signals.

What to Avoid Doing If You Have TMD

If you have TMD, there are certain things you should avoid doing to keep the condition from worsening. Here are things you can do to protect your health:

Gum chewing

Chewing gum can put extra pressure on your jaw and worsen your symptoms if you already have TMD.

Eating chewy foods like taffy or steak

When you have TMD, it’s essential to avoid eating chewy foods like taffy or steak. This is because chewing can put unnecessary strain on your jaw, aggravating your condition. Stick to softer foods that won’t require a lot of chewing.

Taking large bites of foods

If you have TMD, you should avoid taking giant bites of food. This can exacerbate your symptoms and make your condition worse. Instead, try to take smaller bites and chew your food slowly and thoroughly.


If you have TMD, it’s essential to avoid stress. Stress can exacerbate your symptoms and make your condition worse. One way to reduce stress is to practice relaxation techniques such as deep breathing or meditation.

You can also try to limit your exposure to stressful situations. If you can’t avoid stress altogether, try to find ways to cope with it healthily.

Elevated Caffeine Levels

If you have TMD, you should avoid consuming caffeine in large quantities. While drinking coffee or tea in the morning may not be a problem, drinking multiple caffeinated beverages throughout the day can contribute to TMD symptoms.

Caffeine is a stimulant that can cause your muscles to tense up, leading to pain and discomfort. If you enjoy caffeinated drinks, try to limit yourself to one or two per day.

What You Can Do to Help With Your Pain

Physical Therapy

If you’re struggling with TMD or TMJ pain, you might consider seeking help from a physical therapist. A physical therapist can help you stretch and strengthen the muscles in your jaw, neck, and shoulders, which can help alleviate pain.

They can also teach you how to properly use your jaw muscles, which can help prevent further pain and damage.

Manual Therapy: Joint Mobilization and Massage

You can do many things to help ease your TMD and TMJ pain. One of these is manual therapy, which can involve joint mobilization and massage. This therapy can help increase the range of motion in the jaw and decrease pain and muscle tension.

If you are interested in trying manual therapy, be sure to consult with a qualified practitioner who is experienced in treating TMD and TMJ disorders.

Rocabado 6×6

If you are suffering from TMD or TMJ pain, there are some things you can do to help ease the pain and discomfort.

First, finding a comfortable position for your head and neck is essential. This may mean sleeping on your back or your side with a pillow under your head. You may also want to avoid sleeping on your stomach.

Second, you can try using heat or cold therapy to help ease the pain. Heat can be applied to the area for 20 minutes at a time, while cold can be applied for 10-15 minutes.

Third, you can try massaging the affected area. Massage can help to relax the muscles and reduce inflammation.

Fourth, you may want to avoid foods that are hard to chew or require a lot of jaw movement. Eating softer foods may help to ease the pain.

Finally, if the pain is severe, you may want to see a doctor or dentist who can provide further treatment.

Posture Training

One thing you can do to help alleviate TMD and TMJ pain is posture training. This means learning how to sit, stand, and sleep in positions that put the least stress on your jaw and TMJ.

Often, this will mean avoiding positions that put your head forward, such as looking down at your phone or working at a computer with your head tilted forward.

Instead, try to keep your head level or align with your spine. You may also want to invest in an ergonomic chair or pillow to support proper alignment.

Cardiovascular Endurance for Endorphins

We all know that endorphins are the body’s natural painkillers, and cardiovascular exercise is one of the best ways to release them.

If you’re dealing with TMD or TMJ pain, consider adding cardio to your routine to help ease the discomfort. Even something as simple as a brisk walk can help, so get out there and get moving!

Stress Management / Meditating

If you’re suffering from TMD or TMJ pain, one of the best things you can do is manage your stress levels. Stress can aggravate your symptoms and worsen the pain, so finding ways to relax and de-stress is crucial.

One way to do this is to meditate. Meditation can help to calm and clear your mind, which can, in turn, help to reduce your pain. There are many ways to meditate, so find one that works for you and stick with it.

Dietary Changes

You can do several things to help ease the pain of TMD and TMJ, and one of the most important is to pay attention to your diet. Certain foods can trigger or aggravate TMD and TMJ pain, so avoiding them is essential.

Some of the most common trigger foods include hard and chewy foods, such as candy or gum, and crunchy foods like chips or pretzels. These types of food can put unnecessary stress on your jaw muscles and joints, leading to pain.

Other trigger foods are high in acidities, such as citrus fruits or tomatoes. These acidic foods can irritate the already inflamed tissues in your mouth and worsen your symptoms.

Finally, you should also avoid any food or drink that is extremely hot or cold, as this can also aggravate your symptoms.


If you suffer from TMD or TMJ pain, you may consider using a mouthguard. Mouthguards can help protect your teeth and jaw from clenching and grinding, which can worsen your symptoms.

You can buy mouthguards at most pharmacies or online. Be sure to choose one that is comfortable and fits well so that you can wear it for long periods.


Many different types of medication can be used to help with TMD and TMJ pain. Pain relief, anti-inflammatory, and muscle relaxants are all common choices. Your doctor will likely prescribe a medication based on the severity of your pain and your individual needs.

Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, can be helpful for mild TMD pain. If your pain is more severe, your doctor may prescribe a more potent pain reliever. Anti-inflammatory medication can also help reduce inflammation and pain. Muscle relaxants may be prescribed if you have muscle spasms or tightness in the jaw area.

Your doctor will likely start you on a low dose of medication and increase the dosage if necessary. It is essential to take the medication as prescribed and not exceed the recommended dosage. If you have any side effects from the medication, let your doctor know.

Need Help? Call us at Cawley Physical Therapy, where our Doctors of Physical Therapy can personally deliver quality treatment to improve your pain today! Contact us or email