Background and purpose: This systematic review analyzed studies examining the effectiveness of various physical therapy interventions for temporomandibular disorder.
Methods: Studies met 4 criteria: (1) subjects were from 1 of 3 groups identified in the first axis of the Research Diagnostic Criteria for Temporomandibular Disorders, (2) the intervention was within the realm of physical therapist practice, (3) an experimental design was used, and (4) outcome measures assessed one or more primary presenting symptoms. Thirty studies were evaluated using Sackett's rules of evidence and 10 scientific rigor criteria. Four randomly selected articles were classified independently by 2 raters (interrater agreement of 100% for levels of evidence and 73.5% for methodological rigor).
Results: The following recommendations arose from the 30 studies: (1) active exercises and manual mobilizations may be effective; (2) postural training may be used in combination with other interventions, as independent effects of postural training are unknown; (3) mid-laser therapy may be more effective than other electrotherapy modalities; (4) programs involving relaxation techniques and biofeedback, electromyography training, and proprioceptive re-education may be more effective than placebo treatment or occlusal splints; and (5) combinations of active exercises, manual therapy, postural correction, and relaxation techniques may be effective.
Discussion and conclusion: These recommendations should be viewed cautiously. Consensus on defining temporomandibular joint disorder, inclusion and exclusion criteria, and use of reliable and valid outcome measures would yield more rigorous research.