Joints and muscles when injured can cause annoying aches, pains, headaches and disturb sleep, the TMJ (Temporomandibular Joint) is no exception.
What the heck is a TMJ? The TMJ is where the jaw (mandible) meets the skull (temporal bone) There are 8 muscles (yes 8!) around the chin, face, and head that affect this joint. These muscles are constantly at work when chewing foods, yawning, playing musical instruments, and at lengthy dentist appointments.
A tooth ache like pain in the jaw, swelling, tenderness, and the inability to completely open your mouth are some signs that you may have a TMJ problem.
Who experiences TMJ pain? Habits of stress such as clenching your jaw, teeth grinding at night, chewing pens and nails are big contributors to TMJ pain. Eating chewy foods such as steak, bagels, gum and taffy also overwork the TMJ muscles. High impact activities such as running and tennis have a jolting force on the jaw, and even car accidents commonly injure the TMJ.
Do you have popping or clicking when you open your jaw? Or does your chin deviate to one side when you open your mouth? This is also evidence of a TMJ dysfunction. Clicking or popping may indicate hypermobility (too much movement) of one joint when compared to the other, and opening deviations may indicate one sided myospasms (constant contracture) of muscles that pull the jaw bone to one side.
The key is to try to relax and stretch those overworked muscles. The naturally relaxed position of the jaw is with the tongue lightly pressed against the inside of the upper front teeth, and the teeth apart and lips together. Achieve this position by saying the phrase “ boy boy boy in boston” while relaxing and holding the “n” practice this every 15 minutes. Stretch the muscles by placing the tongue on the roof of mouth, slowly open the mouth as far as possible keeping the tongue in contact with the roof, repeat 3 times and do exercises 3 times a day. If any of these exercises cause further pain, stop and see your favourite Rehab specialist. Physiotherapists are all trained to assess and treat the TMJ. They can give you specific jaw exercises, ice/heat instructions, and preform Joint Mobilization and Massage techniques to TMJ and neck. Extensive education about your Jaw condition is critical in Self Care also. Physiotherapists will guide you through it all. And collaborate with your Dentist and Dr as well. Don’t ignore the pain! There are many options to help you feel better.