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Best TMJ Home Exercises for Jaw Pain Relief

Woman with TMJ pain

Finding relief can be a challenge if you are one of the millions of people suffering from TMJ disorder (TMD). TMJ can cause severe pain, and many treatments are available, both surgical and nonsurgical, but often the best option is to try to find relief through TMJ exercises.

This blog post will discuss some of the best TMJ exercises for pain relief. We will also provide instructions on how to perform these exercises correctly. Keep reading to learn more!

How do exercises help with TMJ Pain?

There are a few different ways that TMJ exercises can help relieve pain. First, by strengthening the muscles around the jaw, exercises can help take some of the pressure off the joint.

This can lead to less pain and inflammation. Additionally, exercises can help improve the range of motion in the jaw, which can be helpful if you are experiencing pain due to restricted movement.

Finally, exercises can help increase blood flow to the area, promoting healing.

Let’s take a closer look at some common causes of TMJ pain to help understand how the exercises may help.

Common causes of TMJ pain

TMJ anatomy Mayo Clinic

The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is a small joint in front of the ear where the skull and lower jaw meet. The jaw joint is sophisticated and complex. The TMJ allows us to move our lower jaw up and down and side to side, which is essential for talking, eating, and yawning.

The TMJ is made up of the following parts:

  • The temporal bone: This is the bone in front of the ear.
  • The mandible: This is the lower jawbone.
  • The articular disk is a small, cushion-like disc that sits between the temporal bone and mandible.
  • The muscles and ligaments connect the temporal bone, mandible, and articular disk, allowing the TMJ to move.

The trigeminal nerve controls the TMJ muscles and connects with our sympathetic nervous system, the “fight or flight” response our body has to stress. Chronic stress results in the exhaustion of the sympathetic nervous system.

TMJ disorders and jaw pain

Several disorders can cause TMJ pain. Some common TMJ disorders include:

Arthritis:  Osteoarthritis is a degenerative disease that causes cartilage deterioration that cushions the joints’ bones. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation of the joints.

Jaw clenching (Bruxism) and teeth grinding: This condition can be caused by stress or anxiety. It can also be caused by misaligned teeth, an abnormal bite, or teeth that are missing or crooked. It can cause the muscles in the jaw to become overworked and painful.

Trauma: A blow to the face or head can cause damage to the TMJ.

Stress: Stress can cause the muscles around the TMJ to tighten, which can lead to pain.

Cervical spine instability: Cervical spine instability is associated with TMJ dysfunction and pain. Stabilizing the neck has also been shown in studies to decrease TMJ dysfunction.

Symptoms of TMJ dysfunction

The most common symptom of TMJ dysfunction is pain in the jaw, face, neck, shoulders, or even the ear. Other common symptoms include:

  • Clicking or popping sound when opening or closing the mouth
  • Jaw locking or catching
  • Difficulty chewing or swallowing
  • Pain when yawning
  • Headaches
  • Neck pain
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue

There are several treatment options for people suffering from TMJ symptoms and pain. Let’s look at a few of them and guide medical professionals specializing in TMJ disorders.

Treatment options for TMJ pain

Different treatment options are available for people suffering from TMJ pain. These include:

Surgery

Surgical options should be considered as a last resort. Several different types of surgery can be performed, and the type of surgery will depend on the severity of the condition.

Nonsurgical treatments

There are a variety of nonsurgical treatments to treat TMJ pain. These include:

Exercises

As we mentioned earlier, exercises can help to strengthen the muscles around the jaw and improve the range of motion.

Diet

Eating a healthy diet is essential for overall health but can also help reduce TMJ pain. Eating soft foods and avoiding hard or chewy foods can help to avoid putting stress on the TMJ.

Stress reduction

Stress can contribute to TMJ pain, so it’s crucial to find ways to reduce stress in your life. This might include yoga, meditation, or even just taking some time for yourself each day.

Splint or mouth guard

A splint or mouth guard can be worn at night to prevent teeth from grinding. This can help to reduce stress on the TMJ and alleviate pain.

Anti-inflammatory medications

Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications, such as ibuprofen can help reduce inflammation and pain. However, many people prefer natural pain relief remedies at home.

Botox injections

Botox injections can help relax the TMJ muscles and reduce pain.

If you are suffering from TMJ pain, it’s essential to seek treatment from a qualified medical professional. There are a variety of treatment options available, and the best course of action will depend on the severity of

Best exercises for TMJ pain

The best exercises for TMJ pain focus on stretching the muscles that have become overworked, strengthening muscles that have become weakened, and meditation exercises to stress and pain.

These exercises relieve pain and release tension. Let’s start with relaxation exercises and move into stretching, trigger point massage, and strengthening exercises.

3 minutes to Calm Breathing Exercise

This exercise should be used daily before the body scan meditation. In addition, breathing exercises, particularly rhythmic breathing exercises, have decreased stress.

5 minute body scan

  • After the 3 Minutes to Calm breathing exercise, move right into this body scan meditation. 
  • Please take a deep breath through your nose, feeling the cool through your nose and following the breath as it fills the lungs, expands the ribs, and fills the belly. 
  • Breathe out slowly through your mouth, feeling the warmth move out. 
  • Repeat two times. Just observe the breath without trying to control it in any way.
  • Now, begin to slowly scan your body from head to toe. Start at your big toes and feel them in space. Feel where your body ends, and the air begins. Notice it and feel the air and space around you.
  • Release any tension in your big toe.
  • Move through your foot and into the ankle.
  • Continue to feel the air where it meets your skin and allow the tension to release.
  • Move up through your lower leg and into your knee, noticing and observing any tension, tightness, or warmth. Just follow these sensations without judgment.
  • Slowly move up into your pelvis and your lower back. Release the tension through your lower back and allow the weight of the pelvis to sink into your chair.
  • Bring your attention through your arms and shoulders and to your neck.
  • As you move into the neck and jaw, pay special attention to the tension in your muscles. Take a deep breath and allow the jaw to relax as you exhale.
  • Move through your ears and your head. Observe any tension and allow it to release and relax.
  • When you’re finished, take a few deep breaths and allow the breath to move through your whole body, releasing tension as you breathe and slowly open your eyes.

If your mind wanders during the meditation, that’s perfectly normal. Simply notice that your mind has wandered, and gently bring your attention back to your breath or the sensations in your body.

Masseter muscle release

Masseter muscle releaseThe masseter muscle is one of the main jaw muscles that move the jaw and can quickly become overworked and tight with bruxism or jaw clenching. Myofascial release on the muscle will help relax this muscle and relieve TMJ pain.

  • Start by sitting in a comfortable position.
  • Open your mouth and place your index finger inside, along the back of your cheek.
  • Apply gentle pressure and massage the muscle in a circular motion with this finger.
  • Open and close your mouth slowly while adding pressure to the muscle.
  • Repeat for 30 seconds to one minute.
  • You can do this several times a day as needed for pain relief.

Suboccipital muscle release

Suboccipital muscle releaseOur bodies adapt to sitting for long periods, and forward head posture is one postural change. In addition, the suboccipital muscles are muscles that often become shortened with forward head posture and can put additional pressure on the jaw. Releasing them through self-massage can help relieve pressure.

  • Start by sitting in a comfortable position.
  • With your fingertips, find the ridge at the base of your skull and slide your fingertips under it.
  • You may feel some tender spots in the muscle.
  • Gently apply pressure and massage the muscles in a circular motion.
  • Slowly tilt your head back and forth while adding pressure to the forces.
  • Repeat for 30 seconds to one minute

Digastric muscle release

Digastric muscle release Digastric muscle release 2The digastric muscle is one of the muscles that make up the floor of the jaw, the bottom jaw. This exercise will work the digastric and the other muscles along the floor.

  • Start by sitting in a comfortable position.
  • Place your right and left thumb under your chin and roll them under your jawline.
  • Gently but firmly, follow your jawline until you come to the jaw angle
  • Apply gentle pressure and massage the muscles in a circular motion
  • Repeat for 30 seconds until you have walked your thumbs back and forth along your jawline.

Cervical stabilization exercise

Cervical stabilization exercise

This is a fundamental exercise to start cervical stabilization. It is adapted from Robin McKenzie’s book, Treat Your Own Neck (a fantastic book, by the way, for home strengthening exercises).

  • Start by laying on your back on a firm but comfortable surface.
  • Pull your chin back without flexing your head forward (think of a turtle retracting its neck in).
  • Hold that position and press the back of your head firmly into the surface while holding the chin in position
  • Hold this for 30 seconds
  • Repeat 10-15 times

It is important to note that these are suggested exercises for educational purposes and are not intended to replace medical advice. In addition, TMJ dysfunction is a complicated issue, and you should always first be evaluated by a physician or specialist before starting any program.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you relax the TMJ?

There are several things you can do to relax the TMJ, including

  • relaxation and meditation practice 
  • masseter muscle release
  • suboccipital muscle release
  • digastric muscle release
  • cervical stabilization exercises

You should always consult with a physician or specialist before starting any program.

How can I instantly relieve TMJ (Temporomandibular joint)?

There are a few things you can do at home to help ease jaw pain.

  • Massage the muscles in your jaw. Gently rub your fingers along your jawline, starting from your earlobes and working down to your chin. You can also massage the muscles in front of and behind your ears.
  • Applying a warm compress to the affected area. Place a clean, dry cloth in hot water and use it on your jaw for five to ten minutes.
  • If you’re having trouble opening your mouth wide, try doing some stretching exercises. Pull your lower jaw forward and hold it for five seconds before releasing. Repeat this exercise a few times.
  • Avoid foods that are hard to chew or crunchy, as well as chewing gum. Eating softer foods will help reduce the strain on your jaw muscles.

If you’re experiencing pain, see a doctor or dentist for further treatment.

What jaw exercises can I do for TMJ?

There are several exercises you can do to help alleviate TMJ pain.

  • Masseter muscle release
  • Suboccipital muscle release
  • Digastric muscle release
  • Cervical stabilization exercise

You should always consult with a physician or specialist before starting any program.

Conclusion

It is important to note that these are suggested exercises for educational purposes and are not intended to replace medical advice. In addition, TMJ dysfunction is a complicated issue, and you should always first be evaluated by a physician, physical therapist, or specialist before starting any program.

A few simple exercises can help to alleviate stubborn TMJ pain, but it is essential to seek medical help if you’re experiencing chronic pain.

Let us know how you do!

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This blog is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein should not be used to diagnose or treat any health condition or disease without consulting with a qualified healthcare provider.

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