Since eating is an important aspect of life, it is safe to say that your jaw plays a major role in your day-to-day life. And while we might not always think about our temporomandibular joints (TMJ) much, they’re always there for us.
If you suffer from TMJ pain, though, you probably think about it a lot–every time you chew, talk, and even swallow.
What is TMJ Pain?
TMJ disorders occur when there is something wrong with your jaw joints and muscles. This can happen due to an injury, inflammation, or overuse. Teeth grinding often plays a role in TMJ pain as well, which can be due to stress and anxiety or issues with your teeth/alignment.
Symptoms of TMJ Disorders:
- Pain or tenderness while chewing
- Clicking, grating, or popping sounds when you open/close your mouth
- Locking of the jaw joint
- Pain in the face, jaw, ear, and neck
If you are experiencing TMJ pain, you should speak with your doctor to discuss treatment options, especially if the pain is severe. TMJ physical therapy is also an option with a lot of success.
In the meantime, if you are looking for some fast relief, there are some TMJ exercises for pain relief that you can start today.
5 TMJ Exercises to Try Today
It’s not entirely clear exactly how exercises for TMJ relieve pain, but many suffering individuals find relief with these physical therapy exercises for TMJ. They may not be able to reverse the cause of your TMJ pain; however, they can provide significant relief.
You should always discuss TMJ exercises with your doctor or physical therapists before performing any of these stretches. Do not continue these exercises if you feel any pain.
1) Goldfish Exercise
Start by pressing your tongue to the roof of your mouth. Place one finger in front of your ear (the side where the TMJ is located) and place the pointer finger of your other hand on your chin. Drop your chin and apply light pressure with each finger. Keep your tongue to the roof of your mouth. Do this six times for a set and complete each set six times per day.
2) Chin Tucks
For this exercise, begin by standing with your shoulders back and your chest lifted. Pull your chin straight back, creating a “double chin.” Keep your head straight throughout this motion. Hold for three seconds at a time and repeat up to ten times. This TMJ physical therapy exercise is meant to strengthen the cervical muscles and improve the alignment of your head and spine.
3) Tongue Up
For this easy TMJ exercise, all you need to do is first, gently touch your tongue to the roof of your mouth. Then, without moving your tongue, open your mouth as much as you can. Then, without moving your tongue, close your mouth. Repeat this exercise at least ten times and perform it three times a day.
4) Side-to-Side Jaw Exercise
For this exercise, you will need a small ¼-inch thick prop, such as a popsicle stick or tongue depressor, to target your jaw’s range of motion. Place the object between your front teeth and slowly move your jaw from side to side without loosening your bite on the object. As the exercise becomes easier, increase the thickness of the object between your teeth.
5) Oxford University Hospitals Exercise
This exercise is recommended by Oxford University Hospitals to strengthen the jaw muscle and prevent clicking in the jaw joint.
You need to relax your jaw. First, close your mouth and let your teeth touch without clenching your jaw.
Place the tip of your tongue on the roof of your mouth just behind your teeth. Then, run the tip of your tongue back toward the soft palate until it can’t go back any further (all while keeping your teeth together).
Keep the tongue in this position and slowly open until the tongue starts to pull away. Hold this position for five seconds, then close your mouth and relax. Repeat this exercise for five minutes at a time twice a day.
TMJ Physical Therapy
If you are worried about performing these TMJ exercises incorrectly or are looking for specialized treatment to eliminate your jaw pain, you need to work with a physical therapist. When you work with a physical therapist for TMJ pain, you get a specialized care regimen to help your jaw discomfort, no matter what is causing it.
At Mid-County Physical Therapy, we can properly show you how to perform TMJ exercises for pain relief, as well as assist you with proper breathing activities to reduce the strain on the jaw muscles. Depending on the source of your TMJ pain, you also may want to consider looking into physical therapy for head and neck pain, especially if you could have experienced a jaw or facial injury at any point.
If you are suffering from the unfortunate pain and discomfort of TMJ and believe you could use our TMJ physical therapy services, contact us today.