Posted on by Paula Gallagher
Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders are caused by problems with the jaw muscles or joint, or the fibrous tissue connecting them. Your TMJ acts like a sliding hinge, connecting your jawbone to your skull. It is responsible for opening and closing your mouth, allowing the jaw to move smoothly up and down and side to side, and enables you to talk, chew and yawn. Symptoms or signs of TMJ disorder include pain and tenderness in or around the ear, the jaw joint, or the muscles of the jaw, face or temples. Other symptoms are problems opening or closing your mouth, and a clicking, popping, crunching or grinding noise when you chew, yawn or open your mouth.
TMJ disorders are most common among women in their early 20s and between the ages of 40 and 50, however men also experience this condition. Things that can increase your risk of developing this disorder are jaw injury or disease (arthritis), stress, or grinding and clenching of teeth.
Steps That May Help Alleviate TMJ Pain
1. Apply an ice pack to your jaw joint (just in front of the ear) for 10 to 15 minutes.
2. Follow with a warm, moist washcloth to the same area, also for 10 to 15 minutes.
3. Use your fingers to gently massage your face, shoulders and neck muscles with hard, slow, short strokes for several minutes.
4. Place your thumb on the outside of your cheek on the side that hurts, with the fingers of the same hand inside the cheek. Squeeze your cheek between your fingers and move it in a circular, massaging motion for several minutes.
5. Repeat steps 1 through 3 throughout the day, as needed. The ice numbs the pain and reduces swelling. The heat increases blood circulation to the area and relaxes tight muscles. For best results, alternate between the two – ice and then heat. Massage further reduces muscle tension and pain.
Other Tips for Relief of TMJ Pain
While in pain, consider a soft food diet to allow the jaw to rest and recover.
Chamomile and valerian are nervine herbs that relax the nervous system, soothe stress, and ease muscle tension. These are available in capsules, tinctures and teas. An antioxidant formula may also help as research indicates that free radicals may account for much of the pain in TMJ dysfunction
Posture improvement is another natural remedy for TMJ. Make sure that your work station enables good posture. Repeatedly jutting your head forward of your shoulders can stress muscles in and around the jaw. Your head should be directly over your shoulders.
When sleeping, use a contoured pillow designed to keep your head and neck relaxed.
Your dentist may suggest wearing a night guard, which can help if you grind your teeth.
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