If you find yourself experiencing tenderness around your temporomandibular joint (TMJ) that connects your jaw to your skull, you join the ranks of millions of your fellow Americans. TMJ disorders can bring with them facial pain and problems moving the joint. These disorders can arise from trauma to the jaw, erosion of the joints, arthritis, or constant grinding and clenching of your teeth.
Whatever the cause, the symptoms are often painful and accompanied by stiffness in the jaw muscles, problems moving the jaw, hearing clicking and popping noises when you move your jaw, and misalignment of your bite (malocclusion).
At-Home TMJ Pain Management
During this time of national tension and self-isolation from the COVID-19 pandemic, there are things you can do at home to ease your TMJ/TMD symptoms. Stick to a soft foods diet, place ice packs on and off the outside of the jaw to lower the swelling, and limit using your jaw by staying away from chewing gum or other tough to chew foods like beef jerky. You can also practice gentle jaw-stretching exercises.
While in some cases TMJ disorders go away on their own, they don’t always do. Should your pain persist, TMJ exercises can offer some relief. Don’t do these exercises if you have severe jaw pain (as advised by the American Academy of Family Physicians or AAFP); they advise waiting until your pain subsides before beginning TMJ exercises.
Six TMJ Exercises to Practice at Home for Relief
The following exercises should be practiced gently and slowly, and with time, your jaw should start to feel better. It’s important to RELAX while you do these exercises. Start slowly and STOP if you feel pain. Feeling resistance, however, is okay.
– Relaxed Jaw: Place your tongue on the top of your mouth in the back of your top front teeth. Next, let your upper/lower teeth fall apart. Make sure your jaw muscles stay relaxed.
– The Goldfish 1 (a partial opening): Stick your tongue onto the palate (roof of your mouth) with one finger in front of your ear over your TMJ joint and your pointer finger on your chin. Slowly drop your lower jaw partway and close. Do this six times a day, six times each.
– The Goldfish 2 (a full opening): With your tongue on the palate, put one of your fingers onto your TMJ and another one on your chin. Next, drop your bottom jaw all the way and back. Do this six times a day, six times each.
– Chin Tuck: Pull your shoulders back, push your chest up and your chin back to create a double chin. Hold this position for three seconds. Do this ten times a day.
– Open Mouth Resistance: Rest your thumb under your chin and gradually open your mouth. You want to feel resistance, so push gently and hold for around five seconds. Slowly close your mouth.
– Closed Mouth Resistance: Take your index and thumb of one hand and squeeze your chin and then close your mouth.
– Tongue up Closure: Keep your tongue on your palate as you gradually open and close your mouth.
Along with gentle TMJ exercises, stick to a soft-food diet like steamed or roasted vegetables, tofu, soup, smoothies, pasta, bananas, applesauce, beans, fish, mashed potatoes, scrambled eggs, yogurt, and oatmeal. Strive to lower your stress levels with gentle yoga or meditation. You can also try some over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen and acetaminophen to relieve pain.
If you have any questions or concerns about managing or treating TMJ, please give our team a call. We are always ready to help!