Jaw exercising in TMJ disorders can be helpful at times. If the temporo-mandibular joint is too inflamed, sometimes exercises can worsen TMJ symptoms and the underlying problem. Therefore, some caution with the frequency, timing and extent of exercise therapy in TMJ disorders must be considered. With this in mind, exercises fall into two categories: stretching and massage.
Because the inflammation in TMJ conditions can cause inflammation of adjacent ligaments and muscles, often there is a tightening of these tissues around the jaw joint. This is often associated with pain, and between the tightness and the pain, persons suffering from TMJ may avoid the full range of movement of their jaw. When this happens, sometimes the ligaments and muscle get shorter from under-use. This then results in a chronic limitation of jaw movement. By cautiously performing stretching exercises of the jaw, full mobility of the jaw can be preserved while other therapies address the TMJ disorder directly. This can be important in preserving long term jaw function.
Secondly, as the muscles around the jaw become inflamed, they tend to become tight and in spasm. Massage to these tissues can be very helpful in relieving the spasm, and subsequently the pain. Care is taken not to be too aggressive in massage as this sometimes can worsen the inflammatory condition. Often, a therapist will help guide the exercises in massage and stretching to ensure correct technique and the best chance for the TMJ symptoms to improve.