The temporomandibular joint (also referred to as “TMJ”) is the joint that opens and closes the jaw. As you can imagine, this joint is constantly used every time we eat, talk, yawn, clench our teeth, etc. So it may not surprise you to know that countless people around the world suffer from a condition called TMJ disorder, which results in pain and discomfort in and around the TMJ. There are several non-surgical treatments that have proven to be effective at reducing the pain caused by TMJ, such as custom mouth guards that can be worn at night and prescribed medications, for example. But there are also exercises that can reduce TMJ pain – exercises you can practice on your own, in the privacy of your own home. Here are a few good examples:
- Begin with a gentle massage. Before you attempt any exercise that involves the TMJ, take a few minutes to gently massage the side of your face in and around the TMJ area. This in itself can help reduce pain, and it definitely helps to alleviate the tension that is present in the joint.
- Reduce pain with relaxation exercises. One of the major contributors to TMJ disorder is stress. When we feel anxious or stressed, we often clench our jaw – sometimes while we sleep, and sometimes while we are awake. Clenching often causes the pain or makes it much worse, so relaxing the TMJ can help reduce your discomfort. Here are two relaxation exercises that will help to alleviate the pain in your jaw:
- Sit in a comfortable position or lie down. Consciously tense and relax each muscle in your body, starting with your feet and working your way to the head, ending with your TMJ.
- Sit in a comfortable position or lie down. Inhale slowly from your diaphragm, then exhale slowly. Repeat this slow, deep breathing 5 to 10 times.
- Relieve tension in the TMJ with stretching exercises. Here are a few to try:
- With the tip of your tongue touching the roof of your mouth, open your mouth as wide as possible and hold that position for 5 to 10 seconds.
- Slowly open your mouth as wide as you can and hold that position for 5 to 10 seconds; after that close your mouth and open it again only slightly, then move your lower jaw from side to side between 5 and 10 times.
- With your mouth closed, move your lower jaw to the right and hold for 5 to 10 seconds, then do the same on the left side.
In addition to these exercises, talk to your dentist about your TMJ pain. There’s no reason to live with this discomfort, and your dentist can recommend the best treatment options that are most likely to work for you.