Most of us probably don’t know what a temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is but we use it every day. This joint connects the jawbone to the skull and is used every time we speak, eat, chew, and swallow.
If some problem arises in this joint along with adjacent jaw muscles, it will lead to temporomandibular joint dysfunction. It is often a result of jaw injury, teeth misalignment, poor posture, stress, clenching of teeth, or a condition like arthritis.
TMJ disorder’s symptoms include headaches, pain in the jaw, neck, or ear, locking of the jaw, or popping or clicking sounds when the jaw is closed or opened. These symptoms can either be mild or debilitating based on the severity of the condition.
Some people may require extensive TMJ treatment while others can alleviate the pain with TMJ exercises.
These exercises broadly fall under 3 categories.
Jaw Strengthening Exercises
Performing these exercises will make the muscles that open and close the mouth stronger. They also help in improving the range of motion of your jaw. Both outcomes help in easing TMJ symptoms and pain.
Jaw Stretching Exercises
Stretching the jaw relaxes the chronically fatigued and contracted jaw muscles and reduces muscular reactions to triggers. It will also increase the range of motion of the jaw, and reduce muscle and joint tension.
Jaw Relaxing Exercises
TMJ is caused due to tensed and stressed jaw muscles. Performing relaxation exercises will help ease the associated tension, which lessens TMJ pain. Apart from addressing TMJ pain, these exercises also increase jaw mobility, reduce jaw clicking, and promote jaw healing.
6 Best TMJ Exercises for Pain Relief
Resisted Mouth Opening
This exercise involves applying gentle pressure to the chin while opening the mouth.
– Place two fingers under the chin.
– Open your mouth and gently apply pressure with the fingers under the chin.
– Hold for 5-7 seconds.
– Slowly close the mouth.
– Repeat 5-7 times.
Also Read: Restore Your Oral Health
Resisted Mouth Closing
Opposite to resisted mouth opening, this exercise involves applying gentle pressure to the chin while closing the mouth.
– Place both the thumbs under the chin.
– Place your index fingers between the bottom of the chin and the ridge of the mouth.
– Slowly close the mouth and apply gentle downward pressure to the chin using the thumbs and fingers.
– Repeat 5-7 times.
Rocabado’s 6X6 Exercises
This is one of the most recommended physical therapy exercises to relieve TMJ pain. It consists of a sequence of 6 jaw exercises that strengthen, relax, and stretch the jaw muscles.
- Exercise 1: Place the tip of the tongue on the roof of your mouth. Once done, gently put pressure on the palate and take six deep breaths.
- Exercise 2: Keep the tongue on the roof of the mouth and open and close the jaw six times.
- Exercise 3: Keep the tongue on the mouth’s roof and do resist mouth opening and closing. Open and close your mouth six times.
- Exercise 4: Place your hands behind the neck and lift and lower the chin as if nodding the head.
- Exercise 5: You need to create a double chin by bringing your chin towards the neck and pushing it out.
- Exercise 6: Lift your ribs, put your chest up and squeeze the shoulder blades together. This improves the shoulder posture.
Repeat these six exercises six times. This will be one set. Do the sets six times a day.
This exercise is done for partial opening and full opening of the mouth.
– Place the tongue on the roof of the mouth.
– Put the thumb on the chin and index finger on the TMJ joint which is in front of the ear.
– For a partial opening, open the mouth halfway and close it.
– For a full opening, open and close the mouth completely.
– You will feel mild resistance but you shouldn’t feel any pain.
Side-to-Side Jaw Movement
This is a jaw strengthening exercise.
– Bite down the front teeth on a half-centimeter object such as tongue depressors, craft stick, or sturdy towel rolled like a stick.
– Slowly move the jaw from one side to the next.
– As the exercise becomes easier, gradually increase the thickness of the object between the teeth.
This is a jaw relaxing exercise that decreases tension on the jaw muscles. It helps in relieving TMJ headache and neck pain too.
– Put your chest up and pull your shoulders back.
– Pull the chin down and up to create a double chin effect.
– Hold the pose for 3 seconds and repeat ten times.
Final Words to Chew On
Start these exercises slowly. You may feel mild yet tolerable pain at first. If you feel severe pain, stop doing the exercises immediately as continuing would intensify and prolong the pain. Do the suggested TMJ exercises only when you are relaxed. Performing them when the jaw muscles are tense would make the TMJ pain worse. Consult a doctor if the pain persists.
Shen Chao is part of Dr. Joshua Hong’s Smile Clinic. While working at the Smile Clinic, he has witnessed how dental implants can improve people’s smiles and boost their self-confidence. If you are interested in learning more, email him at email@example.com or get more information at joshuahongdds.com