Many people suffer from temporomandibular joint pain, more commonly known as TMJ syndrome. The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is a heavily-used but often overlooked joint that acts like a sliding hinge connecting the jaw to the skull. Clenching, grinding, and overuse are the main contributors to TMJ pain because these habits fatigue and inflame the muscles around the TMJ. Fortunately, there are several steps you can take from the comfort of your home to relieve the symptoms of TMJ pain.
All skeletal muscles have extensors and flexors. In particular, the jaw muscles have opening and closing muscles. Ideally, the closing muscles should be relaxed as much as possible to avoid pain. Frequent gum chewing, ice crunching, clenching (bruxism) while asleep, and other excessive clenching, grinding activities cause unnecessary stress and inflammation to the closing muscles.
To relieve the pain caused by these harmful activities, there are three particular isometric exercises you should do.
First, place your fist under your chin. Slowly try to open your mouth, resisting the tension of your first. At the same time, try to keep your fist in the same position, resisting the tension of your mouth opening. Do this for ten seconds. Take a break, then repeat.
Second, place your fist against the right side of your jawbone. Slowly try to shift your jaw laterally to the right, all the while keeping your fist pressed against the side of your jaw to keep the jaw in the same place. Do this for ten seconds. Take a break, then repeat.
Third, repeat this lateral isometric exercise exactly, just using your left fist on the left side of your mouth,
Also, apply moist heat to the muscles surrounding the TMJ. Many individuals experience muscle cramping around the TMJ due to lactic acid buildup. Moist heat helps relax cramped muscles by decreasing lactic acid buildup and increasing blood flow. Increased blood flow, in turn, helps speed healing.
To administer moist heat, simply soak a washcloth in hot water, wring it out, and apply to the inflamed area for about ten minutes. Do this immediately following your isometric TMJ exercises.
NSAID Anti-inflammatory drug
To relieve TMJ inflammation, you can also take an NSAID (Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug). Common over-the-counter NSAID drugs include Aspirin, Aleve, and Ibuprofen. Take these NSAID drugs to remove the inflammation in the muscle tissue around the TMJ joint.
Finally, if you find yourself waking up with a sore, aching jaw, you likely suffer from bruxism, meaning you clench and grind your teeth. This is problematic, especially if you do so involuntarily while asleep, because clenching and grinding wears down your teeth enamel, inflames the TMJ, and irritates the muscle tissue.
Fortunately, a custom-made night guard will help provide relief and diminish nocturnal bruxism. A night guard accomplishes this by forcing users to bite evenly, which alleviates facial muscular and joint pain. Instead of letting just a few teeth suffer from the impact of chewing and biting, the night guard disperses this pressure by requiring all the teeth to absorb the impact equally.
If you are experiencing continued TMJ pain even though you are consciously avoiding clenching and grinding when you are awake, you are probably grinding your teeth in your sleep. At your next visit, we can fit you for a custom made night guard here, which you can then wear at home while you sleep.
To conclude, TMJ pain is no laughing matter. Fortunately, there are some steps you can take to help relieve the symptoms and even eliminate the cause of TMJ pain. By performing isometric exercises, applying moist heat, taking NSAID anti-inflammatory drugs when necessary, and obtaining a night guard, you will be well on your way to eradicating TMJ pain.
We look forward to helping you. Please don’t hesitate to call us at (919) 518-8222 if you have any questions.