Case Study: Massage Therapy for TMJ Dysfunction

A student case study explores how massage therapy can help relieve symptoms of TMJ dysfunction.

 February 1, 2021

Massage Therapy for TMJ Dysfunction

Veronica Seddon met her client during her clinical class at MacEwan University. “He has chronic conditions that make TMJ a real problem,” she says. “He wanted to feel more comfortable and improve his quality of life."

Seddon thought she could help, and so she did a thorough assessment, pinpointing areas where massage therapy would be beneficial. “We had a lot of discussion over the results of my assessment, as well as looking at questionnaire results,” she notes. "I did a lot of research on potential treatment paths and presented him with a couple of ideas, and together we decided on one that seemed like it would most improve his quality of life in the six weeks that we had together."

The Plan

Seddon worked with the client for six weeks. The first session was dedicated to assessment, with the remaining five 60-minute sessions combining massage therapy and five minutes for measurements, discussion and client feedback. “I used Swedish techniques, myofascial release, muscle stripping, specific compressions and intraoral techniques,” Seddon explains.

The client was given self-care exercises to perform throughout the rest of the week to help reinforce the work he was doing with Seddon. “The client was given a self-care protocol that included active range-of-motion exercises for his jaw while his caregiver applied light pressure to moderate pressure on his temporalis or masseter muscles, and a jaw proprioception exercise he completed in front of the mirror,” she explains. “I gave him a calendar to mark each day that he completed the self-care protocol so I would know when he’d done them.”

The Results

“Maximum mouth opening was measured with a ruler before and after each treatment, and improved every treatment,” Seddon explains. “The Mandibular Functional Impairment Questionnaire was used at the first, third and fifth appointments to assess function, and those scores improved each time the questionnaire was completed.”

Seddon also used the Verbal Numeric Scale to assess levels of pain before and after each session. “His ‘worst’ pain score decreased from six at the first treatment to three at the final treatment,” she says.

Words of Encouragement

Sometimes, small changes can make big differences. “Even if you are only making what seem like small changes on paper, those small changes can truly change someone’s life,” Seddon says. “Don’t lose hope or feel discouraged if you’re not seeing monumental changes in the first couple of weeks. Keep at it and have confidence in your skills and knowledge base.”