TMJ Treatment

TMJ palpation intraoral performed by physical therapist

Treatment of your TMJ Disorder involves a multifactorial approach. We work with your dentist or surgeon, as applicable. Our goal is to achieve pain relief as soon as possible, and then to restore normal motion, relaxation, and posture to prevent recurrence of your symptoms. Saunders physical therapists specialize in TMJ disorder treatment – choosing Saunders means you will be treated by an experienced professional.

The Saunders TMJ Treatment Philosophy

Musculoskeletal Evaluation: We look at your posture and its potential contribution to TMJ dysfunction. We often discover muscle imbalances of the jaw and neck. We perform a biomechanical evaluation of the temporomandibular joint, cervical spine and craniofacial region. We inquire about habits that can contribute to symptoms, including jaw clenching or grinding the teeth.

Treatment:  Treatment may include manual therapy such as joint mobilization, craniosacral therapy, and myofascial release techniques. Neuromuscular re-education also plays a large role to improve muscle imbalances and decrease strain on the TMJ and cervical spine.

We may use therapeutic modalities such as iontophoresis or ultrasound. Instruction in diet and habit modification is important to decrease irritation to the tissues. Finally, we help you independently manage symptoms through a home exercise program.

TMJ palpation intraoral
It is common for people with TMJ disorders to also have neck problems. Spinal dysfunction affects the mechanics of the TMJ and correction of posture and spinal joint and muscle imbalances is often key to TMJ pain or headache relief. At Saunders Therapy Centers, we can evaluate your head, neck, and jaw to determine the root cause of your symptoms, and develop a treatment plan to get you feeling better in no time


Categories TMJ

Work Ready for Brain Injury Program

Saint Paul Industrial Rehabilitation Team

After extensive rehabilitation, are you at a plateau, struggling to perform work activities or figure out next steps for return to work?

At Saunders, we provide a supportive, structured environment where we gradually expose you to the common stressors people with brain injury encounter in the work environment. These can include difficulty with light or sound, visual disturbances, difficulty concentrating, and physical challenges.

Regain Function and Return to Work with Saunders!

Saunders Therapy Centers’ Work Ready Program is just like our Work Hardening program – but adapted for you. In a nutshell, Saunders’ Work Ready program is simply Work Hardening that goes at your own pace, and also addresses the specific challenges you might be facing with sensory or task sequencing problems. 

What Can I Expect?

At Saunders, your program will be CUSTOMIZED. We perform a 2-hour, comprehensive evaluation to determine your strength, function, and readiness for work. We then work WITH YOU to determine the ideal program.

We gradually increase exposure to those frustrating combination of circumstances that are getting in the way of returning to work.  The activities you’ll do, the length and duration of each session, and the overall length of the program will be unique for your circumstances.

Work Ready for Brain Injury Team

We know it’s hard to increase physical stamina if you’re struggling to tolerate light or sound.

Work Hardening – What Exactly Will I Do?

Most people who are referred for Work Hardening have physical barriers that prevent them from reaching their work goals. Examples of these are stiffness, weakness, poor balance, or poor endurance….

What is the Work Hardening Evaluation?

Before beginning the program, each client participates in a 2-hour evaluation. We obtain a thorough injury history, work history, psychosocial screening and baseline functional assessment covering lifting, pushing, pulling, carrying,…

Realistic, Experienced, Non-Biased, Compassionate Treatment

Meet the Team

physical therapist assistant helping client perform exercise with dumbells

Our Expert Clinicians

Tyler Zajic, PTA

Saint Paul Office
Industrial Rehabilitation
Work Hardening Programs

Cole Burns, OTR/L

Bloomington and Maple Grove Office
Industrial Rehabilitation
Work Hardening Programs
Functional Capacity Evaluation

Megan Fritsch, OTR/L

Industrial Rehabilitation Manager
Functional Capacity Evaluation
Work Hardening Programs
All Offices

Stacy Gonzalez, PTA

Saint Paul Office
Industrial Rehabilitation
Work Hardening Programs

Ashlea Tecker, PTA

Bloomington Office
Industrial Rehabilitation
Work Hardening Programs

Claire Girouard, OTR/L

Saint Paul Office
Industrial Rehabilitation
Work Hardening Programs
Functional Capacity Evaluation


Our Wonderful Administrative Staff

TMJ Symptoms

physical therapist explaining TMJ anatomy

How do you tell if your facial, head, or neck pain is related to your temporomandibular (TMJ) joint? The TMJ is the hinge joint that opens and closes your jaw. The joint can be palpated just in front of the ear, or from inside the ear. The muscles that operate this joint to open and close the jaw can be palpated along the temple, jawbone, and from inside the mouth. Sometimes, you can feel pain directly in the area around the joint, but there are other symptoms you should be aware of:

  • Neck pain
  • Aching facial pain
  • Headache
  • Pain or tenderness of the jaw muscles
  • Aching pain in or around the ear
  • Difficulty with or pain with chewing
  • Jaw “locking” or difficulty opening or closing

It is common for people with TMJ disorders to also have neck problems. Neck posture definitely affects the mechanics of the TMJ and correction of posture and treatment of neck dysfunction is often key to TMJ pain or headache relief. At Saunders Therapy Centers, we can evaluate your head, neck, and jaw to determine the root cause of your symptoms, and develop a treatment plan to get you feeling better in no time.


Categories TMJ

TMJ Headache

Woman with pained expression due to jaw pain

TMJ headaches can be disabling. Sometimes it’s difficult to tell where your headache is coming from – a good physical therapist can help! The temporomandibular joint has several muscular attachments, and a seemingly simple thing like forward head posture can place abnormal stress on those muscles. Pain receptors from the muscles are activated, triggering a headache.

Another source of TMJ headaches is the joint itself. A swollen, inflamed joint causes muscles to become tight and inflamed, causing spasm. Resulting headache can be felt around the skull, face and even neck areas. Saunders physical therapists are skilled at evaluating and treating most TMJ disorders. There is often both a muscular and a joint component, and the neck and upper back are often involved. At Saunders, our approach entails:

Musculoskeletal Evaluation: A thorough evaluation will be performed on your initial visit. We can determine which tissues are  involved by palpating the joint and muscles externally around the head and neck, and inside your mouth.

Manual Therapy: Our therapists all have advanced training in manual therapy which is a hands-on approach that addresses restrictions and provides gentle stimulation to relieve pain.

Exercise: Depending on whether your symptoms are caused by posture, neck or jaw tightness, or instability, a custom exercise program will be prescribed.

Postural Education and Positions of Relief: Our physical therapists will teach you body awareness and you will learn mechanics and postures that decrease load and stress on the spine and jaw. Something as simple as the resting position of your tongue can make a big difference!


TMJ can cause headache


Categories TMJ

Dizziness Caused by Migraine or Neck Pain

Migraine Causing Dizziness

There are many different causes of dizziness including conditions of the inner ear, medication side effects, changes in blood pressure, or prolonged bed rest. Did you know that migraine headaches and painful neck conditions can also cause dizziness?

When migraine is accompanied by vertigo, neck pain may also be present. The neck symptoms can vary, but often include:

  • Reduced range of motion
  • Pain on one side of the neck, radiating to the temple, forehead, or eye
  • Pain on one side of your cheek or face
  • Pain at one or both sides of the base of your skull
  • Sometimes, pain can radiate to one shoulder

Treating the neck symptoms often relieves the dizziness and lessens the severity of migraine symptoms. Saunders Therapy Centers’ physical therapists are experts at evaluating and treating musculoskeletal conditions of the neck, and can assess whether your dizziness is originating from migraine or neck symptoms.

Migraine Causing Dizziness

What Does A Physical Therapist Do for Dizziness Related to Migraine or Neck Pain?

Vertigo disorders are multi-factorial in nature and require a thorough exam to identify contributing factors. Our approach:

  • Musculoskeletal Evaluation: Your evaluation will include an assessment of your posture, muscle flexibility, muscle strength and gait analysis.
  • Dizziness/Balance Evaluation: Your evaluation will also include balance testing, as well as positional testing designed to establish the source(s) of dizziness. Sometimes, we may do simple tests to check your eye movements as they related to your symptoms.
  • Education: We spend time discussing your diagnosis and encourage self-management strategies as part of our comprehensive treatment approach.
  • Treatment: Our aim is to get you feeling better from the first visit. Depending on the results from your exam, you may respond well to manual therapy, or hands-on techniques designed to improve the symmetry and tone in the muscles of the head and neck. Simple home exercises are often an important part of your treatment plan.


Falls Prevention and Balance Training

Helping an older person walk

Dizziness, unsteadiness, and feeling a loss of balance is very unpleasant and frustrating. Individuals over the age of 65 are statistically at much higher risk of falls. Each year, millions of older people—those 65 and older—fall. In fact, more than one out of four older people falls each year. Falling once doubles your chances of falling again, and 1 out of 5 falls in the elderly cause a fracture or head injury. (Statistics from the CDC’s Facts About Falling)

Saunders physical therapists play a crucial role in fall prevention for their patients. Falls can lead to significant injuries and reduced quality of life, especially for older adults or individuals with certain medical conditions. Here are some strategies that our physical therapists can employ to prevent falls:

We Love to Help Prevent Falls!

Assessment and Screening: We will perform a detailed evaluation to objectively assess your fall risk

Individualized Exercise Programs: We will design specific exercises to strengthen your legs and the muscles that support balance. This personalized exercise program will focus on improving strength, balance, flexibility, and coordination.

Fall Risk Education: We will teach you about fall risk factors and how to recognize environmental hazards and navigate safely in your surroundings. We will problem-solve situations in your home to decrease your risk of falls

Gait Training: We will work on improving walking patterns and gait mechanics to enhance stability and reduce the risk of stumbling or tripping.

Use of Assistive Devices: If necessary, our physical therapists can recommend and train you on the use of assistive devices, such as canes or walkers, to provide additional support during mobility.

Balance Training: We can teach specific exercises that challenge balance and proprioception, helping you improve your stability and ability to recover from unexpected balance disturbances.

Vision Assessment: We definitely encourage our patients to have their vision checked regularly and ensure they you wear appropriate eye wear when necessary.

Medication Review: We remind you to consult with your healthcare providers about potential side effects of medications that may affect balance or increase fall risk.

Monitoring and Progression: We will regularly monitor your progress and adjust your treatment plan as needed to continue challenging appropriately.

Fall Recovery Techniques: Our experts can teach you techniques for safe falling and how to recover from a fall to minimize injury.

Community and Home-Based Programs: We encourage our patients to participate in community-based exercise programs or group classes specifically aimed at fall prevention.

Multidisciplinary Approach: Collaborate with other healthcare professionals, such as occupational therapists, physicians, and nurses, to create a comprehensive fall prevention plan for each patient.

Fall Follow-Up: After successful fall prevention training, we can continue monitoring as necessary to ensure you maintain your functional gains and do not develop new risk factors.

Home Safety Tips

At Saunders, we realize that fall prevention requires a multi-faceted approach, and physical therapists play a significant role in reducing fall risk and improving the overall safety and well-being of their patients.

BPPV – Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo

BPPV dizziness

BPPV, or Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo, is the most common source of vertigo. Vertigo is the false sensation that you are falling, or the room is spinning. The main symptom of BPPV is that your vertigo is triggered by head movements (suddenly looking up, down, or to the right or left.) Rarely serious, it is significantly disabling and can cause a risk of falling. Fortunately, it can be helped by physical therapy.

Tiny organs and fluid in your inner ear are responsible for balance. BPPV occurs when tiny calcium crystals called otoconia or “canaliths” come loose from their normal location in the inner ear.  When the ear crystals become detached, they can flow freely in the fluid-filled spaces of the inner ear, including the semi-circular canal – the organ that senses rotation of the head. These floating crystals create havoc, by falsely telling your inner ear that your position in space is changing. This is what causes the spinning sensation with head movement that people with BPPV describe.
Your physical therapist will perform a thorough evaluation to determine whether your vertigo/dizziness is likely caused by BPPV. If so, positional techniques called “Canalith Repositioning” can be very effective in resolving the symptoms.


What Does A Physical Therapist Do for BPPV?

Saunders Therapy Centers physical therapists are all skilled at performing Canalith Repositioning techniques.

The canalith repositioning procedure consists of several simple maneuvers for positioning your head. Guided by your therapist, the head movements attempt to move the loose particles from the fluid-filled semicircular canals of your inner ear into a location where they don’t cause trouble and are more easily resorbed.

This procedure often works immediately, and usually works after one or two treatments. Since BPPV can recur, you will be taught how to perform the procedure on yourself so that you can do it at home if needed.


BPPV dizziness