Best Practices To Help You Manage

Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) pain is not something anyone would want to deal with. People who suffer from TMJ experience restrictive movement in the jaw and endure pain located in the face, jaw joint, neck and even in the shoulder region.

TMJ pain can be extremely painful and odds are you’ve decided to seek help. Although it is always recommended to consult a professional, here are some things you can do in the meantime.

Read More: Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Disorders

Exercises To Ease Pain

You might be experiencing TMJ pain, but the good news is that there are a bunch of exercises that you can do to minimize the pain. Clenching your jaw and grinding your teeth can make for quite an uncomfortable jaw and can worsen your TMJ symptoms.

Eating softer foods or applying ice are frequent suggestions for people suffering from TMJ pain but if you want to get rid of the whole thing, exercises are your best bet. Below you will find a list of exercises recommended by medical professionals that you can do to ease your TMJ pain.

Trigger Point Massage

Massages are known to be relaxing and excellent for releasing tension, so it’s no surprise that the first recommended exercise has to do with massage.

Trigger point massage is not so much a specific exercise as it is a massaging technique that is used to release painful, sore sports known as knots. Essentially, trigger points are known as muscle knots in the jaw. Many times the masseter muscle that covers the jaw is to blame for the pain.

The main areas that commonly hold trigger points are the masseter muscle, the upper trapezius, and the temporal muscles. A self-massage performed on these areas has been shown to ease pain and provide a sense of relief for those struggling with TMJ.

There are three main methods used in self-massage for trigger points, kneading, stretching, and friction.

To perform a kneading self-massage, you want to mimic the action of massaging or rolling out dough, it is as though you are trying to press out the knot.

To perform the stretching self-massage method, you should aim to feel out the muscle and then using your knuckles or fingers, try to spread out the muscle.

When attempting friction self-massage, the goal is to increase circulation in the area where the pain is localized. In this instance, using the tips of your fingers is best for rubbing back and forth with moderate pressure.

Hot Compress

This method used to ease TMJ pain is perhaps the most widely used. The TMJ association conducted a survey in 2011 that revealed hot or cold compresses were the most used method of pain relief for TMJ. That’s about 65% of TMJ patients!

The basis for why thermal therapy works effectively in easing TMJ pain is that when you apply heat to an area, you’re increasing circulation. Increased blood flow and circulation in an area are going to minimize pain since this promotes muscle healing and flexibility.

This is one of the best methods for pain relief, especially since it’s affordable and low maintenance in terms of therapy. Just keep in mind that you should aim to apply a warm compress, nothing too hot.

Jaw Exercise

Aside from applying heat, the most popular technique for easing TMJ pain would be jaw exercises. Remember trigger point massages? Well, in preparation for jaw exercises, it’s important to warm up your muscles with some massage.

Generally, there are two types of exercises to manage TMJ pain. The first type of exercise for TMJ pain is strengthening exercises, which are best performed when you’re not in the middle of a flare-up.

Performing strengthening exercises are best in between or when your TMJ isn’t acting up. Performing strengthening exercises during a flare-up could prove for a painful experience for the next few days.

The second type of jaw exercise that can help with the pain would be relaxation exercises. Performing relaxation exercises during an intense flare-up can be effective in reducing knots and tension held in the muscles.

Jaw exercises are useful for minimizing pain since TMJ is closely linked with posture and performing these exercises will help to relocate and align. Below you will find some of the most common TMJ exercises.

Chin Tucks

The first jaw exercise is known as the chin tuck. When this exercise is performed, the muscles in the neck that support your jaw are stretched and strengthened.

To perform this exercise, begin in an upright position, head facing forward with good posture and shoulders tucked. The main motion of this exercise is tucking your chin back towards you, almost as if you have a double chin (we said almost!).

An important part of this exercise is holding your tuck for up to 5 seconds, then release and repeat. For maximum pain relief, perform this exercise a minimum of ten times per day, if possible.

Mouth Resistance

Another common exercise used to ease TMJ pain is known as mouth resistance. There are two types of mouth resistance exercises used in this case, opening mouth resistance and closing mouth resistance.

The premise of these exercises is fairly simple, you want to apply pressure when trying to open or close your mouth. By performing either of these exercises you will be strengthening the TMJ muscles.

To perform opening mouth resistance, you will place your thumb or finger underneath your chin. While opening your mouth slowly, apply pressure to your chin, effectively making it more difficult to open your mouth.

To perform closing mouth resistance, you will place your index finger and thumbs around your chin. Beginning with an open mouth, apply pressure in a downward motion on your chin while you try slowly closing your mouth.

Front To Back Jaw Movements

This exercise can be a little tricky at first, but the payoff is so worth it. The front-to-back jaw movement exercise is great for reducing TMJ pain since it strengthens muscles in your jaw. The first step is finding something small enough to fit between your teeth, like a Q-tip or toothpick.

The gist of this exercise is moving or rather rolling, the object between your teeth. Start by pushing the object forwards so that your top teeth are behind your bottom teeth. In the first position, it should look like you have an underbite and then by thrusting the object backwards, your top teeth should be in front of your bottom teeth.

How Can Physiotherapy Help With TMJ Pain?

Let’s say you’ve tried these exercises but you’re looking for an extra step in pain relief. Visiting a physiotherapist is a great option for easing TMJ pain. They can help to increase your range of motion.

Physiotherapists may conduct a series of tests, perhaps an ultrasound, to get a better idea of your personal case of TMJ. Additionally, the application of thermal therapy is another method physiotherapists use in pain relief.

However, It is always recommended to visit and consult with your dentist before beginning physiotherapy for TMJ

Read More: Why You Might Be Feeling Pain in Your Jaw

Can Braces Help With TMJ?

One of the most common reasons that people suffer from TMJ is due to teeth grinding or simply teeth that don’t line up. This is where orthodontic treatment becomes a solution for TMJ. Not only have they proven to be extremely effective, but braces are a super common solution for those who deal with TMJ.

By getting braces, your over or underbite that may be causing your TMJ can be corrected. That will then improve the alignment of your teeth and reduce or eliminate your pain altogether!

How Can Your Dentist Help?

Visiting your dentist is recommended if you are struggling with TMJ. By scheduling a consultation, your dentist may conduct necessary tests such as x-rays besides an examination.

This will provide for a specialized treatment plan that may consist of jaw exercises (both strengthening and relaxing), a night guard, and potentially a referral to a physiotherapist or chiropractor.

At Blue Haven Dental, we can help diagnose and treat your TMJ symptoms. You can book an appointment here.