For those with Temporomandibular Joint Syndrome, life can get painful. If you have dealt with TMJ, you know that tight, painful feeling you get when performing basic tasks like eating and talking.
TMJ is a disorder of the nerves and muscles in your jaw caused by an injury to the temporomandibular joint. This joint connects the jawbone to the skull and is integral to the way the mouth functions. If your temporomandibular joint becomes injured, you might notice pain or discomfort in the form of:
- Pain when chewing
- Clicking and popping of the jaw
- Swelling of the cheek/ear area
- Nerve inflammation
- Headaches / Migraines
- Grinding of teeth (bruxism)
- Eustachian tube dysfunction
- possible dislocation of the temporomandibular joint
Are you at Risk for TMJ Syndrome?
“There are several risk factors for TMJ syndrome [including]:
Poor posture in the neck and upper back muscles may lead to neck strain and abnormalities of jaw muscle function.
Stress may increase muscle tension and jaw clenching.
Women 18-44 years of age have increased risk.
Patients with other chronic inflammatory arthritis have increased risk.
People with jaw trauma or poorly positioned teeth have increased risk.
People who have a genetic predisposition to pain sensitivity and increased stress responses may be more susceptible.”
Relieving TMJ pain
Jaw problems like this often resolve themselves within a few months (sometimes as early as a few weeks). The TMJ Association recommends the following methods to relieve pain for those suffering TMJ pain:
- “Moist Heat. Moist heat from a heat pack or a hot water bottle wrapped in a warm, moist towel can improve function and reduce pain. Be careful to avoid burning yourself when using heat.
- Ice. Ice packs can decrease inflammation and also numb pain and promote healing. Do not place an ice pack directly on your skin. Keep the pack wrapped in a clean cloth while you are using it. Do not use an ice pack for more than 10 – 15 minutes.
- Soft Diet. Soft or blended foods allow the jaw to rest temporarily. Remember to avoid hard, crunchy, and chewy foods. Do not stretch your mouth to accommodate such foods like corn on the cob, apples, or whole fruits.
- Over-the-Counter Analgesics. For many people with TMJ Disorders, short-term use of over-the-counter pain medicines or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), such as ibuprofen, may provide temporary relief from jaw discomfort. When necessary, your dentist or doctor can prescribe stronger pain or anti-inflammatory medications, muscle relaxants, or antidepressants to help ease symptoms.
- Jaw Exercises. Slow, gentle jaw exercises may help increase jaw mobility and healing. Your health care provider or a physical therapist can evaluate your condition and suggest appropriate exercises based on your individual needs. A recent study found therapeutic jaw exercises bring earlier recovery of jaw function compared to splints! Click here to read the specific jaw exercises used in this study.
- Relaxation Techniques. Relaxation and guided imagery can be helpful in dealing with the pain that accompanies TMJ dysfunction. Deep, slow breathing enhances relaxation and modulates pain sensations. Some have found yoga, massage, and meditation helpful in reducing stress and aiding relaxation.
- Side Sleeping. Sleep on your side using pillow support between shoulder and neck.
- Relax Facial Muscles. Make a concerted effort to relax your lips, and keep teeth apart.
- Yawning. Use your fist to support your chin as you yawn to prevent damage to the joint and prevent your jaw from locking open.
- Jaw clenching.
- Gum chewing.
- Cradling the telephone, which may irritate jaw and neck muscles.”
If you suffer TMJ pain, the TMJA is a wonderful association with real answers to your questions.
TMJ pain is no joke. If you think you are suffering, don’t hesitate to call us today, or send us an inquiry using the form on the right. Thank you for reading!