The joints that open and close the jaw and aid it to move are called temporomandibular joints. Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) syndrome is a medical condition in which there is an injury or damage to the joints around the jaw. The symptoms of TMJ include pain while chewing, pain in the ear and jaw, a popping sound in the jaw when you open or close the mouth, headaches, and a lock in the jaw joint. The causes of TMJ includes injury to the jaw or teeth, misalignment of the jaw or teeth, stress, arthritis, teeth grinding, and gum chewing. If it is left untreated, TMJ can lead to an affect on a person’s eating, sleeping and breathing pattern. This can affect the health and overall confidence of young people. Although there are various medical treatments for this condition, with some jaw exercises, you can cure the problem.
According to a recent study, several therapeutic jaw exercises can bring an earlier recovery to the jaw function. Try these simple and comforting jaw exercises to help cure TMJ:
When the pain has subsided, try strengthening TMJ exercises to keep them from returning. In these exercises, one has to open and close the mouth to place some resistance on the chin.
For a resisted opening exercise, place your thumb under the chin and push downward against it gently. When you push your thumb, open the mouth slowly, and leave it open for some seconds. Then close it slowly.
For a resisted closing exercise, place your thumb under the chin and then place your index finger of the same hand at the ridge the lies between the chin and lower lip. You will then gently push as you are closing your mouth.
By stretching the jaw gently and the joint area, you can keep the TMJ from coming back. You will stretch the jaw by pressing the tip of the tongue at the roof of the mouth, and then very slowly open the mouth as much as you can without arising pain.
Other exercises involve moving the jaw on its own without causing discomfort.
First, begin with your mouth closed and keep your jaw as relaxed as possible. When the teeth part, open the mouth wide slowly as wide as you can and look up with the eyes. Keep the mouth open for a few seconds before closing it.
When your mouth is closed, move the jaw to the left while looking to the right with your eyes (and do not turn your head or neck!). Remain in this position for a few seconds. Then move back to the center and repeat the stretch, this time moving the jaw to the right side and looking to the left from your eyes.
If your TMJ is stress related, there are exercises that can aid in relaxing you. These involve breathing exercises that ease the tension in the jaw muscles. Inhale for a count of five, and then very slowly exhale. Repeat daily for comfort. This exercise will help in modulating the pain sensations, while calming you down when you are stressed. You can also try yoga, massages, and mediation for relaxing your nerves. These aid in reducing stress levels and increasing your comfort.
Other ways to Manage TMJ Discomfort
Although exercises and over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen and acetaminophen aid greatly in relieving the pain of TMJ, you should purchase muscle relaxers for comfort as well, such as:
- Mouth guard, so that you avoid teeth grinding and jaw clenches. These also help in realigning the jaw.
- Use warm towels for relief.
- Place ice for less than 15 minutes a day over the jaw. Wrap the ice in a towel before placing it on the skin.
- Acupuncture to reduce the pressure in the affected areas.
You should also make changes in your lifestyle to reduce TMJ pain, like eat a soft diet, avoid chewing gum, avoid biting your lip or nails, sit with proper posture, and avoid making large jaw movements (usually done in yawning, singing or screaming).
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