Your temporomandibular joints (TMJ) are responsible for opening, closing and moving your jaw. Due to the fact that they are under a lot of pressure from motions involved with chewing and talking, they can be a source of chronic pain for many people.
Chronic TMJ pain can significantly affect a person’s quality of life. However, there are a number of exercises you can try out to help relieve pain and tension and make everyday activities such as eating and talking pleasurable again. Here are a few of our favorites:
1. The Strengthening Exercise
This exercise is designed to improve the strength of your jaw and protect the TMJ area from pain in the future. It should be noted that these movements should not be performed when you are experiencing intense pain. Rather, they should be performed in between flare-ups or when you first feel discomfort coming on in order to mitigate the chances of experiencing debilitating pain. The strengthening exercise should be carried out like so:
1. Place a thumb underneath your chin, pushing your chin in a downwards direction against the thumb. Your thumb should, of course, be lightly pushing upwards against the chin.
2. Hold the mouth open for around 10 seconds and repeat this motion five or six times.
3. On the final motion, open your mouth as wide as is comfortable and move your index finger to the spot between your chin and lower lip. Push gently whilst trying to close your mouth against this force. Again, repeat this closing motion five or six times.
To ensure efficacy, this exercise should be performed a couple of times a day.
2. The Relaxation Exercise
Often, TMJ pain is related to issues surrounding jaw tension and grinding caused by stress and anxiety. In this way, a simple relaxation exercise can help to calm your mind and body and reduce pressure on your TMJ area. Here’s how to do it:
1. Sit or lie down in a comfortable position, inhaling and exhaling in a slow and controlled fashion.
2. Slowly clench and relax every inch of your body, working your way up from your feet towards your head.
3. Lie still for a few minutes thinking about how your body feels.
Performing this exercise a few times a week will help you to consciously release tension in certain areas of your body when required, a skill that is particularly useful for addressing issues such as grinding and chewing.
3. The Stretching Exercise
Stretching can help to reduce pain during a TMJ flare-up, soothing tension and offering long-term relief. Here’s how to stretch properly:
1. Place your tongue tip against the roof of your mouth and open your mouth wide, holding the position for around ten seconds.
2. Repeat this motion a number of times, moving your lower jaw out as far as possible if you are able.
4. The Pencil Exercise
This is a slightly more advanced stretching exercise that can help to soothe a particularly painful flare-up:
1. Place a pencil in between your front teeth.
2. Slide the lower jaw outwards so that the object is resting between the back and front teeth. Hold this position for around 20 seconds and repeat at regular intervals, using wider objects if possible.
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If you’re suffering from TMJ issues and would like some professional help, get in touch with TMJ & Sleep Solutions today!