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TMJ Treatment with Activator Technique

Jaw pain is a very common condition. Some people describe clicking, popping, or stabbing pains in their jaw. Opening and closing their mouth can cause incredible pain localized to the TMJ. Other times people feel stiffness and tightness, especially first thing in the morning or after chewing gum. Jaw stiffness and soreness can lead to neck pain or headaches.

The TMJ is a difficult joint to treat because of its complex nature. It is both a gliding and a hinging joint, this dual motion requires unique structure and alignment of the TMJ. There are several major muscles that control opening and closing of the jaw that must work together to allow normal jaw movements. Many individuals with TMD describe tightness and mild soreness first thing in the morning, probably from biting down in the middle the night. Treatment can be difficult trying to relax the muscles involved on both the left and right side of the jaw. The location of the joint makes it difficult for traditional physical therapy, massage therapy, or chiropractic treatments.

A recent study looked at the possibility of Activator Adjusting Techniques on the TMJ to reduce pain and jot discomfort. Individuals were selected who had dysfunction opening their mouth. Meaning they were limited in their ability to open their mouth to normal levels. They were also given visual analogue scales which graded their pain. Scores were taken and compared before and after treatment.

After six visits over the course of two weeks participants showed improvement in their pain visual analogue scores. Additionally people showed improvement in their mouth opening ability. The average mouth opening was increased by 9 mm. This was a very small study but it showed potential benefit of utilizing activator technique for TMJ or TMD pain. Further investigational studies were recommended, but this study indicates the potential benefit for patients.

We have seen patients improve with activator similar to patients in the study. We further complement treatment with physical therapy involving electric, ice, size therapy, and cold laser therapy. Cold lasers therapy is an excellent tool at decreasing inflammation and pain inside joints. Cold laser therapy is a very effective treatment for TMJ and is highly recommended for patients suffering with jaw pain.

Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics

Volume 26, Issue 7 , Pages 421-425, September 2003

Chiropractic treatment of temporomandibular disorders using the activator adjusting instrument: a prospective case series.

James W DeVocht, DC, PhD, Cynthia R Long, PhD, Deborah L Zeitler, DDS, Walter Schaeffer, DC



To determine if there was a basis for the treatment of temporomandibular disease (TMD) using the chiropractic protocol developed by Activator Methods, International.


Private, solo practice of an Activator advanced proficiency rated chiropractor with 15 years experience.


Prospective case series.


Nine adult volunteers with articular TMD recruited from the practice of the treating clinician.

Main outcome measures

Change from baseline to follow-up of Visual Analog Scale (VAS) for temporomandibular joint (TMJ) pain and maximum active mouth opening without pain.


Full spine and TMJ adjusting in accordance with the advanced protocol of Activator Methods, International. Participants were typically seen 3 times per week for 2 weeks and according to individual progress thereafter for 6 more weeks.


Eight participants completed outcome assessments. The median VAS decrease was 45 mm (range 21-71); all experienced improvement. The median increase of mouth opening was 9 mm (range 1-15); all showed improvement.


The results of this prospective case series indicated that the TMD symptoms of these participants improved following a course of treatment using the Activator Methods, International protocol. Consequently, further investigation of this type of chiropractic treatment for patients with the articular type of TMD is warranted.

Alpha Chiropractic & Physical Therapy believes in combing the specialties and experiences of a medical physician, chiropractor, physical therapist, and massage therapists for treating injuries. This comprehensive treatment approach often produces better results in less time by addressing the muscle and joint aspect to every injury. Our clinic is conveniently located to serve the Ahwatukee, Chandler, Tempe, and Gilbert communities. To learn more about our treatments please visit the Resource Pages or Home Page.