Understanding the Difference Between TMJ and TMD - Pinnacle Physical Therapy

Understanding the Difference Between TMJ and TMD

At Pinnacle Physical Therapy, we often encounter patients confused about TMJ and TMD. While they are related, understanding their differences is crucial for accurate diagnosis and effective treatment. Let’s clarify these terms and explore what they mean for your health.

What is TMJ?

TMJ stands for the temporomandibular joint. This joint connects your jawbone to your skull, located just in front of each ear. The TMJ is a complex and flexible joint that allows you to perform essential functions such as chewing, speaking, and yawning. 

What is TMD?

TMD stands for temporomandibular disorders. This term encompasses various conditions affecting the TMJ and the jaw movement muscles. TMD can cause pain and dysfunction in the jaw joint and surrounding muscles.

Key Differences Between TMJ and TMD

TMJ is the Joint, TMD is the Disorder

  •  TMJ refers to the anatomical joint itself, but is commonly used to describe the ailment.
  •  TMD refers to the disorders and issues affecting the TMJ.

Usage in Diagnosis and Treatment

  • TMJ is the common term used to describe the disorder.
  • TMD is a medical term used when discussing the disorder’s symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment.

Causes of TMD

Several factors can contribute to TMD.


Trauma to the jaw or head can damage the TMJ.


Both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis can affect the TMJ.


Grinding or clenching your teeth puts stress on the TMJ.


High levels of stress can cause muscle tension in the jaw.


Problems with the alignment of the teeth or jaw can lead to TMD.

Symptoms of TMD

TMD can manifest in various ways.

Jaw Pain

Pain or tenderness in the jaw, face, or neck.

Difficulty Chewing

Discomfort or difficulty when chewing.

Jaw Locking

The jaw may lock in an open or closed position.


Clicking, popping, or grating sounds when moving the jaw.

Ear Issues

Pain, ringing in the ears (tinnitus), or a feeling of fullness in the ears.


Frequent headaches, especially around the temples.

Diagnosing TMD

Diagnosing TMD involves a detailed examination.

Medical History

Reviewing your symptoms and medical history.

Physical Examination

Assessing the jaw’s range of motion and identifying areas of discomfort.

Imaging Tests

X-rays, MRI, or CT scans to get a detailed view of the TMJ and surrounding structures.

Treatment Options for TMD

At Pinnacle Physical Therapy, we offer a range of non-invasive treatments to manage TMD.

Physical Therapy

Customized exercises to strengthen jaw muscles and improve range of motion.

Manual Therapy

Techniques to mobilize the joint and relax tight muscles.

Pain Management

Heat/cold therapy and ultrasound therapy to manage pain.

Stress Reduction

Incorporating relaxation techniques and stress management strategies.

Living with TMD

Managing TMD effectively involves a combination of professional treatment and at-home care. Regular physical therapy sessions, along with exercises and stress management techniques, can lead to significant improvements in your symptoms.

Understanding the difference between TMJ and TMD is essential for accurate diagnosis and effective treatment. At Pinnacle Physical Therapy, our experienced team is dedicated to providing comprehensive care for TMD. 

Contact Pinnacle Today!

Set up a visit to Pinnacle if you’re experiencing jaw pain or other symptoms of TMD. 

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