Is jaw pain making eating and talking difficult?  Here are some simple ideas you can use for Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) jaw pain relief

It may seem like an unusual place to get pain but jaw pain is not uncommon. Almost ten million Americans suffer from Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) pain. The condition often goes undiagnosed and untreated.  In this article, we look at the causes of jaw pain and some remedies that can help.

TMJ Jaw Pain Relief

What is the Temporomandibular Joint?

The temporomandibular joint is a complex structure that:

  • Allows you to open and close your mouth, and move your lower jaw up, down or sideways.
  • Connects your jaw to the temporal bones of your skull. It comprise: the lower jaw (mandible), the socket (temporal bone) and a disc that lies between the two. The disc allows the joint to glide smoothly on opening and closing.
  • Involves five pairs of muscles, tendons, and ligaments that hold the joint in place

Any problem (injury or other medical condition) that prevents this complex system from working together can lead to pain. Jaw pain can occur on one or both sides, depending on the cause. The pain may occur when you are chewing, talking or at rest. This localized pain, and problems with the muscles and jaws of your face is called Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) syndrome, or temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD).

 

Causes of TMJ Pain

There are a number of reasons why your jaw joints can become misaligned. Often, there isn’t a single cause but a combination of factors such as:

  • Teeth that don’t fit together properly.
  • Injuries such as whiplash, or a blow to your jaw either directly to the joint or elsewhere on your jaw or teeth.
  • Habits like cradling the phone between your ear and shoulder.
  • Over-activity of the jaw muscles such as grinding your teeth (bruxism), or continually chewing gum.
  • Stress which can lead to habits such as teeth grinding. Stress can also cause increased sensitivity to pain.
  • Wear and tear of the cartilage inside in the joint

Treatment of TMJ Pain

If you suffer from TMJ pain and dysfunction, the following therapies can help:

Moist Heat

Moist heat can improve function and reduce pain.

Use a heat pack or a hot water bottle wrapped in a towel. Do this a few times throughout the day.

 

Ice

Ice packs can decrease inflammation and numb pain. Do not place an ice pack directly on your skin or use for more than 10 -15 minutes.

 

Soft Diet

  • Avoid hard, crunchy, and chewy foods so that you chew less.
  • Eat soft or blended foods such as mashed potatoes, cottage cheese, soup, scrambled eggs, and fish. Cook fruit and vegetables. Add beans and grains to your diet.
  • Cut food into small pieces so that you don’t have to open your mouth wide.

 

Over the-Counter Analgesics

Short-term use of over-the-counter painkillers or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), such as Ibuprofen give temporary relief from jaw discomfort. Take as directed. If these types of drugs do not relieve your TMJ pain, speak to your doctor. Stronger analgesics, anti-inflammatories, muscle relaxants, or antidepressants can be prescribed.

 

Jaw Exercises

Slow, gentle jaw exercises can help increase jaw mobility.  A Japanese study in 2013 found that therapeutic exercise brings earlier recovery of jaw function compared with splints. Here is a link to some exercises for TMJ rain relief.

 

Relaxing Your Facial Muscles

 Try to relax your lips and keep your teeth slightly apart. This helps relieve pressure on your jaw. Keep your tongue between your teeth to stop you clenching or grinding them.

 

Relaxation Techniques

Consciously slow your breathing and take deep regular breaths.  This helps relax tense muscles which can reduce the pain. Guided imagery can also help relieve the pain of TMJ dysfunction.

 

Sleeping on your Side

Sleep on your side using pillow support between shoulder and neck.

 

Minding your Posture

Practice good posture to reduce jaw pain –

  • Avoid Yawning Try not to yawn. If you are going to yawn, support your chin with your fist to prevent damage to the joint and also prevent your jaw from locking open.
  • Don’t chew gum or do anything that forces you to open your mouth wide such as yelling or singing.
  • Avoid resting your chin on your hand.
  • Don’t clench your jaw.
  • Don’t cradling the telephone between your shoulder and ear. It can irritate your jaw and neck muscles.

If you are experiencing problems with your jaw, then try some of these TMJ jaw pain relief strategies. If your symptoms don’t improve, seek professional advice.