Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) pain is a very common issue. There are a number of underlying problems that can cause pain in the jaw. A study that was performed in 2010 showed that significant benefits could come from performing jaw exercises. We’re going to consider a few exercises that you may want to try. Then we will discuss another way to get natural relief from TMJ pain if you are suffering from one the most common underlying issues.
Before we start our list, remember to speak to a health practitioner before starting a new exercise routine. While you aren’t going to give yourself a heart attack stretching your jaw, you may make the pain worse if there is structural damage. Once you have the okay, here some things to try.
#1 Let Your Tongue Provide Resistance
You probably may not even realize that when you lower your jaw, your tongue natural goes to the bottom of your mouth to help push it open. To provide a little extra resistance, consciously keep your tongue touching your palate while you open and close your mouth slowly. This can be an effective TMJ exercise.
#2 Provide Resistance with Your Fingers
Hold your chin between your thumbs and forefingers. Consciously hold your chin in place while open and closing your mouth to exercise the TMJ. This allows you to control the amount of resistance. You can hold your chin harder to make the exercise more difficult as your jaw is strengthened.
#3 Use Your Thumb to Create Resistance
Another variation is to hold your thumb like you are giving a thumbs up. Now point your thumb back toward your neck and push up under your chin. Use this to create resistance as you open and close your mouth. When you have your mouth open all the way, hold for a few seconds against the pressure before you close it and start the next rep.
#4 Tuck Your Chin
Stand up nice and straight with your chest out and shoulders back. Now tuck your chin toward your chest. You are going to feel your neck stretch and you may even feel a stretch behind your ears. That is because all of these structures of the body are very close to one another and are connected via soft tissue. As a side note, this will be important to keep in mind when we discuss our alternate strategy for resolving jaw pain at the end of the article.
#5 Feel Your TMJ in Action
Place your index fingers on each side of the TMJ. It is located just in front of the ear on both sides of the head. Now practice opening and closing your jaw all the way. If you can only go part way due to pain or limited range of motion, set opening the jaw all the way as a future goal. Putting a slight amount of pressure on the joint with your index fingers will create a mild resistance and is another effective TMJ exercise.
#6 Jaw Relaxation Technique
If the above TMJ exercises are beyond what you can do right now, try this jaw relaxation technique. Instead of holding the tongue against the roof of your mouth, let it rest comfortably against the back of your top teeth. Then, simply allow your lower jaw to drop to a comfortable position and close your mouth again. Do this exercise for a few days until you feel you can stretch a little beyond that motion and try some of the other exercises noted above.
The Neck – A Frequent Source of Jaw Pain
As we discussed previously, the ears, jaw, and neck are all connected by soft tissue of various sorts. This is why TMJ patients often experience neck pain as well as ear pain or other ear problems. The underlying factor in play may be an atlas misalignment.
The atlas is the top bone in the neck. Located at the base of the skull, it is just about directly between the ears and jaw joints. That means even a very slight misalignment can affect these other structures of the body in a negative way. How can you have an atlas misalignment corrected precisely and safely? We’d like to introduce you to upper cervical chiropractic care as a means of getting natural help for TMJ pain.
Upper Cervical Chiropractic and TMJ
Upper cervical chiropractic care is a subspecialty of chiropractic that involves very precise and gentle adjustments of the top bone in the neck, the atlas. Measurements are taken using modern diagnostic imaging techniques such as x-rays or thermal imaging. These measurements are used to develop a custom adjustment for each patient that is gently administered either manually or with an adjusting instrument depending on the training and preference of the individual practitioner. There is none of the twisting or popping that causes many people to shy away from the benefits of chiropractic care.
Once the atlas is back in place, this gives the structures of the body the time they need to heal. It can help to reduce pain in cases of chronic TMJ dysfunction. It can also provide relief from neck pain and may help with ear ailments due to the proximity of all of these parts of the body.
If you are suffering from TMJ pain, especially if you have a history of head or neck injury, we hope you give upper cervical chiropractic a try. You may find that not only does your jaw feel better but that your overall health and wellness improve. Schedule a consultation with a practitioner near you to learn more.