TMJ or Temporomandibular joint syndrome is a disorder affecting the joints around the jaw, which is often referred to as “locked jaw.”
What Causes TMJ?
The lower jaw is connected to the skull by joints that are padded by discs. These discs may become displaced or worn out, oftentimes causing extreme pain when you move your jaws. Constant teeth grinding and clenching of teeth may gradually damage your jaw discs. Other causes of TMJ include the following:
- Dental or medical procedures
- Poor sleeping habits
- Poor oral hygiene
- External injury
- Teeth grinding while asleep
- Joint disease like arthritis
- Poor posture
TMJ is characterised by facial and jaw pain, neck pain and headache, pain in the joints when you yawn, chew food or open your mouth, achy jaw especially right after waking up, swollen face with pain radiating to the ear, locked jaw, difficulty in swallowing, muscle spasm in the jaw area and a receding lower jaw, clicking sounds during jaw movement and deviation of the jaw to one side of the face.
What To Do When You Have TMJ
While TMJ may require medical attention, you can alleviate its symptoms using natural methods.
Stress reduction techniques
Stress is a risk factor of TMJ as it causes the muscles to contract and tighten in various parts of the body including your jaws. Yoga, breathing and meditation are effective relaxation techniques that help reduce the effects of stress on your muscles. Most find that simple steps such as finding time to relax every day also helps relieve the symptoms of TMJ.
Avoid clenching your teeth
As constantly clenching your teeth may lead to a locked jaw, you should learn to relax your jaws by keeping your upper and lower teeth separated while letting your tongue rest on the bed of your lower teeth. You may have to open your mouth slightly by doing so.
Stretching exercises also help relieve neck pain and headaches that normally accompany TMJ. Starting with your head facing forward, bend your neck slowly to the right side with your right ear almost touching your right shoulder. Hold the stretch for 20 seconds and slowly return to starting position. Do the same on the left side of your body and repeat the right and left exercises 4 more times. Practice this and other stretching exercises to reduce tension in the upper body.
Maintain proper posture to prevent neck and shoulder pain. Take breaks after sitting in front of a desk or computer to relieve tension around the neck and shoulders. Use a teeth guard while sleeping to prevent teeth grinding and eat more foods containing magnesium such as leafy greens, nuts, seeds, whole grains and soybeans.
Natural Therapies for TMJ
is effective in relieving jaw pain as hair-thin needles are inserted on specific points on the skin to stimulate the release of endorphins, your body’s natural pain relievers. Oftentimes, you may experience TMJ due to muscle tension from some other part of your body which may be pulling on your jaw. Musculoskeletal therapy and physical therapy which gently restores proper alignment of your muscles and skeletal system have been successful as well in treating jaw pain.
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