Temporomandibular Joint pain or dysfunction
What is the TMJ?
The temporomandibular (tem-PUH-ro-man-DIB-yoo-ler) joint, connects the upper and lower jawbones. This joint allows the jaw to open wide and move back and forth when you chew, talk, or yawn.
What causes TMJ pain?
There are many causes of TMJ pain. Repeated chewing (for example, chewing gum) and clenching your teeth can cause pain in the joint. Some TMJ pain has no obvious cause.
What can I do to ease the pain?
When you experience TMJ pain, you may find relief with some or all of the following therapies.
- Moist Heat: Applying a warm, damp washcloth to the joint can improve function and reduce pain. Be careful to avoid burning yourself when using heat.
- Ice: Ice packs can decrease inflammation and also numb pain and promote healing. Wrap ice pack in a cloth so that the ice pack does not lie directly on the skin. Do not use an ice pack for more than 10-15 minutes.
- Soft Diet: Soft or blended foods allow the jaw to rest temporarily. Remember to avoid hard, crunchy, and chewy foods. Do not stretch your mouth to accommodate foods such as corn on the cob, apples, or whole fruits.
- Over-the Counter Pain Relievers: For many people with TMJ disorders, short-term use of OTC pain medications or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), such as ibuprofen, may provide temporary relief from jaw discomfort. When necessary, Dr. Adams may also prescribe a muscle relaxant medication.
- Jaw Exercises: Slow, gentle jaw exercises may help increase jaw mobility and healing. We will suggest appropriate exercises based on your individual needs. These exercises should not be painful. If it hurts to do these exercises, stop doing them and call the office.
- Relaxation Techniques: Relaxation and guided imagery can be helpful in dealing with the pain that accompanies TMJ dysfunction. Deep, slow breathing enhances relaxation and modulates pain sensations. Some have found yoga, massage, and meditation helpful in reducing stress and aiding relaxation.
- Side Sleeping: If you sleep on your side use a pillow support between your shoulder and neck.
- Relax Facial Muscles: Make a concerted effort to relax your lips and keep teeth apart. (Lips together, teeth apart)
- Yawning: Use your fist to support your chin as you yawn to prevent damage to the joint and prevent your jaw from locking open.
In addition, avoid:
- Jaw clenching
- Gum chewing
- Cradling the telephone, this may irritate jaw and neck muscles