TMJ disorder is more common than you might think.
At least 5 to 12% of the U.S. population lives with some form of TMJ pain or discomfort. That works out to be roughly 10 million people who suffer from this painful jaw joint condition. Jaw pain can make it hard to talk, chew, and enjoy everyday life. For some sufferers, they experience frequent headaches or neck pain.
The question is, what can you do to ease the pain?
Luckily, there are some exercises you can try right now to get relief. Read on to learn about TMJ and how jaw exercises can help.
What is TMJ?
Your TMJ or temporomandibular joints connect your jaw to your skull. That joint makes it possible for you to chew, talk, laugh, and sing. While TMJ technically refers to the joint itself, many people use it to refer to the painful disorder that can result from an issue with the joint. You might also hear these joint problems called TMJD or TMD.
If your jaw muscles often feel sore or you have trouble opening your mouth all the way, you might have a TMJ issue. Cracking or popping sounds or pain when you chew are also symptoms.
How can TMJ exercises offer some relief?
Have you ever noticed how your joints and muscles feel better after a brisk walk? That’s because exercise is an important part of staying healthy. That’s also why the CDC recommends adults get 150 minutes of strength training and aerobic exercise every week. It’s also important to exercise properly so you don’t injure yourself.
You can apply that same line of thinking to your TMJ pain. TMJ pain happens when there’s an issue with your jaw joint. That’s usually caused by an imbalance in the muscle movement that controls your jaw. Jaw exercises can stretch out your muscles, encourage healing, and help your jaw joint move better.
While TMJ exercises may not help in all cases, they can offer immediate relief for many people. That said, please see your dentist if pain worsens or persists.
1. Jaw Muscle Massage
Use your fingers to gently massage the muscles in your jaw. Focus on the hinge area and along your jawbone. Massage your jaw using a downward circular motion. If the muscles in your face feel sore under this gentle pressure, this technique can relieve some of the tension. You can also use a warm or cold compress for 10 minutes at a time.
2. Slow Alignment Exercise
Stand in front of a mirror and slowly open your mouth. As you do this, try to keep your two front teeth in alignment with your two bottom teeth. You can repeat this up to 5 times. This helps strengthen your jaw muscles while maintaining proper jaw alignment.
3. Side-to-Side Exercise with Object
Get a small object like a pencil or a stack of three tongue depressors (or craft sticks). Whatever you use, it should be about a quarter of an inch thick. Put the object between your teeth and move your jaw from side to side without dropping the object. As it gets easier, you can use a thicker object. This improves your jaw’s flexibility and range of motion.
4. Forward-and-Backwards Exercise with Object
Use the same object from the exercise above and set it between your teeth. Slowly move your jaw forward so your bottom teeth stick out past your top teeth. Repeat this at least 5 times.
When it gets easier, you can upgrade to the same thicker object from exercise 3.
5. Chin Tucking Neck Exercise
Stand up straight with your shoulders back. Push your chin down until it looks like you have a double chin and hold for a few seconds. You can repeat this up to 10 times.
TMD pain can also feel like neck pain. This exercise will strengthen and add mobility to your neck and jaw joint.
6. Wide Mouth Exercise
Put the tip of your tongue on the roof of your mouth. Open your mouth as wide as you can. Then, move your tongue toward your tonsils and then forward so it’s sticking out of your mouth. This exercise helps strengthen the muscles in your lower jaw.
7. Open Mouth with Resistance
Place your thumb underneath your chin. Slowly open your mouth while gently pressing up with your thumb. Hold for about 3 seconds and repeat at least 3 times. You should feel a bit of pressure, but no pain. This will strengthen your jaw joint.
8. Close Mouth with Chin Pressure
Open your mouth and press your index fingers against the front of your chin. Try to close your mouth against the resistance of your fingers. This will strengthen the specific muscles you use for chewing.
9. Open and Close Mouth Exercise
First, open your mouth as wide as you can and close your mouth. Then, open your mouth half as wide and do it again. This will improve the range of motion in your jaw..
10. Relaxed Jaw Opening Exercise
Put your tongue on the roof of your mouth behind your front teeth. Let your mouth open without straining the muscles in your jaw. Repeat this at least five times. This gentle exercise is a great way to exercise your jaw without causing too much strain.
Still not getting the relief you want?
TMJ pain can be frustrating to live with. It takes the enjoyment out of everyday pleasures like eating and talking. It can even make sleeping difficult. Luckily, these exercises can provide some relief. Be sure to schedule an appointment with your dentist whether these exercises bring you relief or not. It’s always a good idea to have your jaw joints evaluated.
If you’re looking for jaw pain relief, contact us today. We specialize in caring for patients with TMJ disorder.