TMJ or temporomandibular joint dysfunction is the most common cause of jaw pain. Fortunately, more and more people are finding that something can be done about it, even if you have been suffering for years.
I will explain exactly how TMJ occurs and how you can treat it with 3 exercises. I’ll also explain how jaw clenching, stress, and neck pain contribute to TMJ.
We then discuss the TMJ treatment with exercises.
The following matters will be discussed:
The anatomy of the jaw
Your skull and jaw bone together form your jaw joint. In the joint lies a meniscus to improve the mobility and flexibility of the joint. This meniscus is similar to the one found in your knee.
The meniscus is connected to 2 muscles inside your mouth. When opening and closing your mouth, the meniscus is pulled forward and backward by these muscles. This makes the joint move nicely and smoothly.
However, when these muscles are too tense, they pull too hard on the meniscus. This can cause it to be pulled out of the joint. This causes a popping or clicking sound in the jaw during the opening or closing of the mouth. It can even lock your jaw completely.
This video clearly shows how the meniscus moves when opening and closing the mouth.
There are also muscles on the outside of the jaw that ensure that the jaw moves. Stiffness in these muscles causes pain radiating to your head or neck. As a result, jaw pain can also cause neck pain or headaches.
In addition, the stiff muscles in the mouth can cause you to snore more or suffer from sleep apnea. The treatment can also affect this.
The cause of TMJ is overuse of your jaw muscles. The overuse causes more tension in your jaw muscles. The tension causes your pain.
There are several known causes for this:
- Chewing gum
- Too much caffeine
- A restriction of movement in the neck
- Jaw-clenching or teeth-grinding
- Tongue pressing
Stress is the most common cause of TMJ disorder, especially among young people. Stress makes you grind your teeth more often and you unconsciously clench your jaw. This causes you to overload your jaw muscles. The jaw muscles become stiff and shorten.
This means that you are less able to open your mouth. Your jaw can also crack.
A stiff neck can also cause strain on your jaw. Many jaw muscles are partially attached to your neck and head. Because your neck can move less well, your jaw also moves less well. All this causes you to develop TMJ.
To relieve your TMJ, it is essential to reduce the tension in your jaw muscles and make your neck flexible again.
I’m going to discuss all this now.
TMJ treatment with 3 exercises
To relieve TMJ, tension must disappear from the jaw muscles.
To achieve this, it is essential to reduce the strain on your jaws.
Therefore, pay attention to whether you clench your jaw. Almost everyone with TMJ does this, but many people do not know this about themselves. By being aware of this, you can unlearn it. Your jaws should only touch each other when you chew and not otherwise. By relaxing your jaw muscles as often as possible and constantly controlling yourself, you will unlearn jaw clenching and your jaw muscles can relax.
There are also several other things you can do. For example, wearing a mouthguard to prevent teeth grinding at night helps to reduce wear and tear on the teeth. It also ensures that you’ll develop less tension in your jaw muscles at night.
There are several exercises you can do to help relax your jaw muscles. I describe this below.
TMJ pain relief exercise 1: Improving the mobility of your neck
The first exercise we’ll discuss focuses on improving the mobility of your neck. Especially the upper part of your neck affects the mobility of your jaw.
Perform the exercise like this:
Wrap a towel around your neck
- Take the right side of the towel with your left hand and the left side with your right hand.
- Now lift the hand in front up until the towel is the same height as your cheek.
- Now pull with your arm and the towel, your head in full rotation to the side.
- Repeat this ten times and change to the opposite side by changing your hands.
- Finally, grasp the towel normally, lift your arms, and look up simultaneously.
You can also see how to perform the exercise in this video.
Perform this exercise twice a day. Rotate your neck as far as you can. It might hurt at first, but that’s no problem. You will feel it improves within days.
TMJ pain relief exercise 2: Stretch your jaw muscles
The second exercise focuses on stretching the muscles in your jaw. As I mentioned, tightness of your jaw muscles is the leading cause of jaw pain and temporomandibular joint dysfunction.
By stretching the muscles, you’ll improve your jaw joint function. It also reduces the popping or clicking sound of your jaw when opening it.
Perform the exercise like this:
- Place the index finger of one hand on the teeth at your lower jaw
- Place the thumb of your other hand on the teeth at your upper jaw
- Now use your fingers to open up your mouth further
- Hold this for 20 seconds
- Repeat it three times
You can see how to perform the exercise in the picture.
When doing the exercise, you should feel the stretch in your jaw muscles on both sides of your face.
TMJ pain relief exercise 3: Relax your jaw muscles
The third physical therapy exercise aims to reduce the tension in your jaw muscles. The results are the same as in the previous exercise, but the execution is different.
You can relax your jaw muscles in 2 ways:
The first way is by massaging your jaw muscles at your face with this massage oil. Find the most painful spot on your jaw and massage it gently for about 20 minutes. You’ll feel the pain disappear slowly.
The second way is by squeezing your jaw muscle between your thumb and index finger.
Perform the exercise like this:
- Place your thumb in your mouth and find the muscle in the back of your mouth
- You’re looking for the tensest and most painful spot
- Place your index finger on the same muscle but on your face
- Squeeze the muscle between the two fingers
- Hold it until the pain disappears completely
- Repeat this three times
You can see how to perform the exercise in the picture below.
Perform this exercise as often as possible for optimal results.
Relaxing your jaw muscles and reducing stress is the best way to relieve jaw pain.
If you have any questions after reading this article, feel free to ask them by emailing me an e-mail.
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