TMJ (Jaw Joint) Pain
Most of us have never given much thought to the muscles we use to chew our food or to the joints from which our jawbones hinge. But for those of you who have a deep aching in your check(s), temple(s), or jaw area, it can be a feat not to think about them—all the time!
The jaw joint, or temporomandibular joint (TMJ), is composed of the rounded end your jaw bone as it connects into a “socket” on a part of your skull. You have two TMJs which lie just in front and a bit below your ear canals. These joints are controlled by a group of masticatory (chewing) muscles which we use to talk, grind our food, and, when stressed, to clench.
Women tend to suffer from temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMD) more often than men. Stress and oral habits, such as chewing on your nails, pens, gum, or eating hard-to-chew foods or those requiring a large, open mouthed bite (apples, NY style bagels, etc.), can predispose a person to this problem.
If you have been struggling to find relief from your jaw pain here are some things to consider:
- Correct your head and shoulder posture: Since half of your jaw joint is part of your skull, your head must be positioned over your shoulders while your shoulders are held in a “back and down” position. “Top off” this postural alignment by adding a slight chin tuck to ensure proper alignment of your TMJs.
- Rest your jaw: Begin a soft food diet regime. The muscles/ligaments of your jaw are likely strained/sprained and the area is inflamed. Allowing your jaw this break will help to quicken its healing.
- Begin a TMJ home exercise program: Retrain your jaw/tongue position and the coordination of muscles which control the TMJs. For a complete program with easy to follow photos, visit my website and select “Free Resources” from the menu. Then choose the printable “TMJ Exercises” PDF.
- Finally, you may need to seek out a manual physical therapist with experience in treating TMD to help you on your way to healing.