TMJ, an acronym for temporomandibular joints, are some of your most commonly used joints. These joints, located in front of your ears, connect your skull to your jaw and are used when you swallow, talk, eat. Temporomandibular joints are located on both sides of your jaw and can be affected by injuries or disorders such as arthritis, an injury, teeth grinding among others, and then become TMJ disorders or dysfunctions.
Because of the frequency in which these joints are used, any injury or disorder to the joints can be extremely painful and debilitating, with issues such as:
Pain while eating and chewing
Jaw popping and clicking
Pain is not only your jaw but your ear, head, and neck
Much of the issues with TMJ can be solved by self-care and home remedies. While you should check with your doctor before starting any TMJ treatment plan, here are some resistance, stretching, and strengthening exercises you may be able to do to release TMJ pain:
Look in the mirror. Open your mouth slowly. While you are opening your mouth, center your two front teeth with your bottom two. Repeat between 5 and 10 times.
Put a wooden pop stick between your top and bottom front teeth. Move your jaw slowly from side to side while holding the popsicle stick between your teeth.
Repeat exercise number two but instead of side to side, move your bottom jaw forward. Hold for 20 seconds. Repeat with your top jaw. During the movement, the item will rest between your back and front teeth.
For exercises two and three, if completed successfully with no pain, you can then use items with more thickness. As each “level” is completed successfully, you can continue to build upon thickness. For instance, start with a popsicle stick and move to a pen then a marker, etc.
Open your mouth as wide as you can without it beginning to cause any pain. Then close your mouth. Repeat the exercise but only open your mouth half as wide. Continue the process to stretch your jaw muscles.
Place your tongue to the roof of your mouth, behind your front teeth. Apply slight pressure to your palette. With your tongue held there, slowly open and close your mouth. Repeat.
Put your index and middle fingers at the top/hinge of your jaw. Begin massaging downward. Massage down and then back up again.
Place your index finger and thumb on your chin’s center. Open your mouth slowly and put pressure on your chin with your two fingers. Hold your mouth open for approximately 3-5 seconds then close slowly while continuing to put pressure with your index finger and thumb. Repeat 3-5 times.
Open your mouth as wide as you can without it beginning to cause any pain. Push on the right side of your jaw with your right hand. After holding it for 10 seconds, return to the middle. Then do that with your left side and hold for another 10 seconds before returning to the middle.
Remember, these are supposed to be gentle exercises. If they are causing you pain, cease the exercise, limit the frequency, or lessen the pressure. To get started, make sure you complete them during a time you are most relaxed, sit upright, and start by doing these in front of the mirror until you are comfortable.
Ideally, these exercises help with:
Relaxing not only your jaw but your mind and body
Alleviating joint tension
Relieving muscle tension
Strengthening muscles and joints
Broadening mouth open range
Helping your jaw to heal
Additional TMJ Pain Relief Tips
In addition to the exercises, there are additional things you can do that may add some additional relief. A combination of lifestyle changes and gentle exercises should help alleviate your TMJ pain, but you may need to check with your doctor for additional measures. In the meantime, try:
Maintaining good posture
Talk to your doctor about medication
Applying an ice pack for 20 minutes
Alternating between heat and ice
Avoiding foods that are hard to chew
Speak to your doctor about mouthguards
Do not bite your fingernails or bite on your teeth
Get a good night sleep (this is great for all overall health)
As always, check with your doctor before starting any treatment plans. However, people often have success with at-home remedies and exercises for their TMJ pain. Remember to be gentle with yourself (and your body) and that these exercises are not designed for immediate relief. Your jaw and muscles need time to strengthen so make sure you keep up on your exercise for long-term relief.