TMJ (temporomandibular joint) disorder is a general term used to define various problems with the functionality of your jaw. Most often, it is characterized by pain in your jaw joints and muscles, sometimes accompanied by noises during jaw movement and reduced jaw mobility. If you suffer from a form of TMJ disorder, you should know that there is strong evidence that TMJ physical therapy and jaw exercises can relieve TMJ pain. In this article, we will list the 12 best TMJ exercises you can do to at home to improve your condition and quality of life.
Best TMJ Exercises to Relieve Pain, Increase Mobility, and Build Strength
Despite the gravity with which some people and doctors look upon TMJ disorder, there are many jaw exercises you can do at home to reduce the symptoms and recover your jaw functionality. Besides what any doctor might recommend, the following exercises are key to a successful TMJ relief from pain, and a swift recovery.
You should do these TMJ exercises at least once a day, but preferably twice a day, in the morning, and before you go to bed. If you feel pain during the exercises, discontinue them.
Strength TMJ Exercises
These help you build up your jaw and skull muscles, and are important for increasing jaw strength, so that it can respond to internal and external forces correctly.
- TMJ Exercise 1. Put your thumb beneath your chin, with the rest of your fist pointing forward, and push upwards. Then, open your jaw against the pressure made by your hand. Do three sets of five repetitions each.
- TMJ Exercise 2. This exercise does the exact opposite. Hold your chin open by placing your fingers just beneath the lower lip, and pull down. Then, close your jaw against the pressure made by your hand. Do three sets of five repetitions each.
- TMJ Exercise 3. Move your jaw laterally as much as possible, from the extreme left to the extreme right. Repeat ten times.
- TMJ Exercise 4. This exercise is good at relieving extra pressure in your jaw joints. Push your jaw forward until your bottom teeth are slightly in front of your upper teeth. Repeat ten times.
Stretching TMJ Exercises
These help you build mobility in your head and jaw ligaments, a vital element in relieving joint pain and pressure.
- TMJ Exercise 5. Do four sets of complete head rotations, two clockwise and two anti-clockwise. Each set should have at least ten repetitions.
- TMJ Exercise 6. Do two sets of complete lateral turns, and two sets of vertical inclines with your head. Each set should have 10 repetitions.
- TMJ Exercise 7. Open your mouth as much as you can, and close it back again. Repeat 5 times.
Posture TMJ Exercises
Amounting to a sort of TMJ yoga, these exercises help you maintain a correct body position, which ensures that your bones and muscles do what they are supposed to, and not something else.
- TMJ Exercise 8. Our office jobs make us slouch a lot. Force yourself into a correct upright posture, and maintain it for two minutes, then repeat. Remember that the head should be directly above the shoulders at all times, and not in front of them.
- TMJ Exercise 9. Assume a push-up position, by resting your palms on the ground. Keep your head straight, and maintain the position for one minute. Repeat 2 times.
- TMJ Exercise 10. Pull back your head and shoulders, with your arms raised parallel to the ground. Maintain the position for thirty seconds, and repeat 2 times.
Relaxation TMJ Exercises
Sometimes, TMJ disorder is caused by stress. In this case, the symptoms can be alleviated by doing relaxation exercises. Breathing is an important part of it all, as you will see in the following exercises.
- TMJ Exercise 11. Inhale and count to 5 or 10. Then, exhale slowly. Repeat this from 5 to 10 times. While this might not be an exercise in itself, it is a relaxation technique that, in turn, can help relieve TMJ pain.
- TMJ Exercise 12. Sit or lie down in a comfortable position. Tense each muscle group in your body at a time, then slowly release the tension. Start with the muscles in your feet, and work your way up.
Remember that you should practice these TMJ exercises daily. Results never come quickly, so you will have to be persistent for an extended period of time. In the video below, Jo from AskDoctorJo demonstrates some highly effective TMJ exercises and stretches. Make sure to give it a watch!
Extra Tips to Manage TMJ Pain
Besides doing the exercises mentioned above, keep in mind these tips and tricks to manage your TMJ pain:
- Apply ice to the area subjected to pain, but no longer than 15 minutes each hour. Do not place the ice directly on the skin. Either use an ice pack, or wrap the ice in a clean towel. For some people, alternating ice and heat is even better. Use a warm towel to keep the area warm.
- Use a mouth guard to stop you from clenching your jaw and grinding your teeth, which are both causes of TMJ pain. Mouth guards can also help you realign your jaw.
- Try stress-relief techniques to decrease pressure in the jaw area.
- Change your lifestyle: eat soft foods, don’t bite your nails, avoid chewing gum, try not to yawn, sing, or do anything that implies large jaw movements.
If done under the supervision of a doctor and alongside specialized treatment, there is a good chance TMJ exercises will improve your overall condition in time, and perhaps even heal it completely. TMJ exercises are an excellent way to use a set of muscles which are very often neglected, and to relieve pain. An efficient alternative treatment of TMJ disorders and jaw pain is acupuncture. Can you suggest other good TMJ exercises and treatments? What worked for you? Leave your comments in the form below!
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