Background and purpose: The purpose of this qualitative systematic review was to assess the evidence concerning the effectiveness of physical therapy interventions in the management of temporomandibular disorders.
Methods: A literature search of published and unpublished articles resulted in the retrieval of 36 potential articles.
Results: Twelve studies met all selection criteria for inclusion in the review: 4 studies addressed the use of therapeutic exercise interventions, 2 studies examined the use of acupuncture, and 6 studies examined electrophysical modalities. Two studies provided evidence in support of postural exercises to reduce pain and to improve function and oral opening. One study provided evidence for the use of manual therapy in combination with active exercises to reduce pain and to improve oral opening. One study provided evidence in support of acupuncture to reduce pain when compared with no treatment; however, in another study no significant differences in pain outcomes were found between acupuncture and sham acupuncture. Significant improvements in oral opening were found with muscular awareness relaxation therapy, biofeedback training, and low-level laser therapy treatment.
Discussion and conclusion: Most of the studies included in this review were of very poor methodological quality; therefore, the findings should be interpreted with caution.