What Causes TMJ?
There are several factors that contribute to TMJ. The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) can cause symptoms such as pain in the side of the face, pain in the side of the head and ear pain. Some contributing factors to TMJ include clinching, grinding, excessive chewing, and having dental work with your mouth open for a prolonged period of time. TMJ can last for a short period of time or literally for years. There is a good chance that TMJ pain can be relieved with the correct TMJ exercises. Many times people who have TMJ think they have an ear infection because often the TMJ/TMD pain refers into the ear. They spend time and money going to the ENT only to find out that their ear is just fine. It is also often the case that dentists do not know where to send their patients who have jaw pain.
A common cause of jaw pain is irritation in the back of the joint. When the jaw muscles get out of balance, the nerves bundle often get irritated and compressed. This results in pain with talking, chewing, or sometimes just sitting. On occasion these symptoms start when someone has been to the dentist and has had to keep their mouth open for a length of time.
It is best to approach TMJ/TMD from a broad perspective. The temporomandibular joint mechanics are strongly influenced by the neck positions, the head position, the tongue position and a persons ability to breath through their nose. All these factors can influence the onset of jaw pain. So take note of your sitting posture and keep your head in line with your shoulders. If you have a painful click or popping in your jaw this can also be addressed with TMJ exercises.
Home Remedies for TMJ/TMD Pain – A Quick Start Guide to Feeling Better
A few things to check on yourself if you are having TMJ pain…
1) How is your posture? If your standing, sitting or sleeping posture is out of alignment, it may contribute to your jaw pain. We can help evaluate your posture and alignment to achieve results that will help ease your pain. Sleeping on your back may help, as well as taking frequent breaks from sitting at your computer, doing gentle neck stretching and squeezing your shoulder blades back. We can teach you quick, simple exercises that you can do at home or at the office.
2) Is your desk ergonomically correct? Check your desk and computer placement to make sure you aren’t twisting or angling your neck up or down to complete your tasks.
3) Is your tongue on the roof of your mouth? Are your teeth apart? When properly aligned, your tongue should be gently touching the roof of your mouth. One of its many jobs is to keep your teeth apart so you aren’t clenching. Your back teeth should only touch briefly when swallowing. If your teeth are touching, you are clenching. Take several breaks each day to be mindful of your tongue and teeth positioning, making sure that your jaw is relaxed.
4) Are you a mouth breather or nose breather? If you aren’t able to properly breath through your nose, it can contribute to TMJ symptoms. To relieve nasal and sinus congestion we suggest trying warm compresses, saline and/or steroid nasal sprays, steam from a hot shower, humidity from a vaporizer and OTC sinus medication. If you are not able to get your sinus congestion under control with home remedies, it would be well worth it to consult an ENT physician.
5) Are your muscles tight? Tight muscles are one of the biggest causes of headaches, jaw pain, neck pain, dizziness, imbalance and ringing in the ears. Learning what makes your muscles tense and knotted and finding ways to relax during the highest stress moments can be an enormous benefit to your overall health and well being.
6) What is going on in your life? Are you stressed out? The mind body relationship needs to be addressed in order to achieve relaxation to alleviate jaw pain, neck pain, headaches, muscle knots and other stress related conditions, otherwise it can become a vicious cycle. We can help you learn stress relieving techniques that you can use throughout your life.
7) Are you putting undue pressure on your jaw? Breaking bad habits can go a long way in recovering from TMJ pain and preventing it in the future. Chewing gum, holding the phone to your shoulder with your face, resting your chin on your hands and sleeping on your stomach are all habits that you can break today. One way to work on breaking a bad habit is to keep a rubber band around your wrist and when you find yourself doing it, snap the band (gently of course). Your mind will be retrained to associate the bad habit with the undesirable outcome of the band snapping and soon you will no longer need the rubber band.
A knowledgeable physical therapist is a a good place to start with the treatment of TMJ. Often a team approach between the dentist and the physical therapist will help to alleviate TMJ. Many times an oral appliance along with hands on physical therapy techniques and exercises is a good approach to getting relief from jaw pain. Call or text us today to discuss a treatment plan that is right for you.