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Certain exercises may provide relief from TMJ pain or discomfort.
Because people can suffer from different types of TMD, experiment with different exercises to determine which ones are the most effective for you. Like any exercise, it’s important not to push yourself too hard, as this can cause more harm than good.
Here are the most effective exercises for TMJ pain:
Place your tongue against the top of your mouth, with the tip resting just behind your upper teeth.
Allow your mouth to open, deliberately relaxing the muscles of the jaw. Repeat frequently.
Open your mouth as wide as possible. Hold that position for about 10 seconds, ensuring a good stretch. Then, move your jaw left and right, holding each position for about 3 seconds.
Finally, move your jaw in circles, left-to-right and right-to-left. Repeat this exercise 5 times.
Rest your tongue against the roof of your mouth while placing a finger against the TMJ. Place another finger on your chin. Drop your lower jaw halfway or all the way, then close it.
Repeat this 6 times per session, 6 sets per day.
Pull your chin back towards your neck, creating a double chin. Hold this position for 5 seconds. Complete 5 repetitions.
Rest your tongue on the roof of your mouth. Slowly open and close your mouth. Open your mouth wide enough to feel the stretch in your tongue.
Repeat this process for the next 5 minutes.
Place a ¼ inch object between your front teeth and move your jaw forward. As the movement gets easier, increase the size of the object you use.
Place a ¼ inch object between your front teeth and move your jaw slowly from side to side. Gradually increase the size of the object as you progress.
Use your thumb and index fingers to open your jaw as wide as possible. You should feel a slight stretch.
Hold the position for 10 seconds. Repeat this process 5 times.
Bend your neck forward and backward. Then turn your head to the left and right.
Finally, bend your neck left and right so each ear touches your shoulders.
When you first do these exercises, your pain may initially get worse. However, it’s a normal response and isn’t a cause for alarm.
It will take time for your jaw to get used to the range of motion. The exercises are also forcing your TMJ tissues to get stronger.
Your TMJ pain should subside within 2 to 3 weeks. After that point, you should be able to open and close your jaw without discomfort.
Exercises aren’t the only way to manage TMJ pain or discomfort. You can also try:
Some severe cases of TMD may require surgery, though doctors will only recommend that as a last resort.
The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) connects the lower part of your jaw, called the mandible, to your skull. It’s a hingelike joint vital for talking, yawning, chewing, and swallowing.
The TMJ and the muscles attached to it allow the jaw to move up and down, sideways, and front-to-back. If you place a finger in front of the lower part of your ear and open your mouth, you will feel the TMJ at work.
Many people experience pain or discomfort in their TMJ. Temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMD) causes symptoms like:
Approximately 5 to 12% of people are affected by TMD.4
What causes TMJ pain isn’t always clear. However, certain factors may increase your likelihood of developing TMD or TMJ pain and discomfort.
These risk factors include:1,7
If you are experiencing jaw pain, you should refrain from doing the following:
Also known as bruxism, grinding or clenching your teeth can inflame your TMJ tissues and prevent proper healing. It may also cause headaches and muscle pain in your neck.
Wear a nightguard if you grind or clench your teeth while sleeping.
Many people chew absent-mindedly on objects like pens while doing other things. They may also be in the habit of chewing gum for long periods of time.
Excessive chewing can make your TMJ pain worse. It stresses the masticator muscles in the face, causing inflammation.
Avoid chewing on anything other than food to see if it relieves your discomfort. Additionally, ensure that you’re chewing on both sides of your mouth so as not to overwork one TMJ.
It’s common to rest your jaw in your hands or on a flat surface while working or studying. This habit can place pressure on the disk in your TMJ, which may lead to pain or discomfort.
Evaluate your posture and adjust it so that you aren’t applying any necessary pressure to your jaw.
Engaging in poor posture is a risk factor for developing TMJ pain.
If you frequently sit for work, optimize your ergonomics so you’re not worsening the discomfort. If you use a computer frequently, ensure it’s placed directly in front of you, so you don’t have to turn your head.
Hard or crunchy foods like chips, apples, or carrots can aggravate your TMJ pain. Chewing them takes more work from your jaw.
Consider switching to soft foods and liquids to give your masticator muscles a rest.
See a doctor if you have been doing daily exercises for 2 to 3 weeks and still feel TMJ pain. Ongoing or severe TMJ pain is a possible sign of TMD.2
Your doctor can check for TMD by placing their finger in your ear while you move your jaw. They may also ask questions regarding the pain you feel, such as what might trigger it and how long it lasts.
Depending on the specific cause, you may need to see a dentist or a TMJ specialist for treatment. Treatment for TMD depends on the severity but sometimes requires surgery.
TMJ pain often goes away on its own. If your symptoms persist for weeks or months or become severe, your doctor may recommend professional treatment.
Professional treatments for TMJ pain and TMD include:
The outlook for TMJ pain and disorders depends on what’s causing the condition.
If your pain results from a chronic issue like arthritis, you will likely need long-term management. If the cause is an acute injury, your pain may resolve once the injury has healed.
When it doesn’t have a serious underlying cause, TMJ pain will typically resolve after a few weeks. Jaw exercises and treatment might help.
The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is a hingelike joint connecting your lower jaw to your skull. Many people experience pain or discomfort in the TMJ.
Several at-home exercises can help resolve TMJ pain. Typically the pain will resolve after a few weeks of performing the exercises regularly. If not, you may need to seek professional treatment from a doctor.
Risk factors that increase your chances of experiencing TMJ pain include chronic conditions like arthritis, injury to the jaw or head, and bad posture.
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