Commonly called TMJ or TMJ disorder, temporomandibular disorder or TMD is a painful issue affecting countless Americans. If you suffer from this frustrating affliction, you may be able to reduce your symptoms by performing some of the following TMJ exercises.
According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, there are a number of exercises and TMJ stretches that have been shown to reduce TMJ symptoms. Unfortunately, when you’re suffering from TMJ pain, the last thing you want to do is exercise your jaw.
Since even the slightest movements can exacerbate symptoms, it’s best to take it easy until you feel close to normal. Once TMJ symptoms subside, however, consider trying the following exercises to reduce the likelihood and severity of recurring issues.
- Resisted mouth closing
- Resisted mouth opening
- Forward jaw movement
- Side-to-side jaw movement
- Chin tucks
- Tongue up exercise
- Relaxed jaw exercise
- Goldfish exercises
Resisted mouth closing:
Designed to help strengthen the jaw, this exercise adds resistance so it’s more difficult to shut your jaw. Start by placing both index fingers on the ridge between the bottom of your chin and your mouth. Next, press your thumbs beneath your chin and close your mouth slowly. Repeat this without overdoing it. If you start feeling any fatigue, stop the exercise.
Resisted mouth opening:
Basically the opposite of resisted mouth closing, this exercise is designed to make it more difficult to open your jaw. Start by placing two fingers and a thumb beneath your chin. Then, open your mouth very slowly, while pushing up gently on your chin using your thumb. Again, repeat the exercise until you feel slightly fatigued.
Forward jaw movement:
Find a clean, sanitary object about a quarter of an inch in size (two tongue depressors, for instance). Place the object between your upper and lower front teeth and slide your lower jaw forward, until the bottom teeth pass in front of the top teeth. As the exercise becomes easier over time, increase the thickness of the object.
Side-to-side jaw movement:
Similar to the forward jaw movement, this exercise is designed to increase comfortable range of motion. Again, find a clean, sanitary object about a quarter of an inch in size and hold it between your upper and lower front teeth. Slowly move your jaw from side to side, increasing the size of the object as you master the exercise over time.
With your chest up and shoulders back, pull your chin back, as if you are trying to create a “double chin.” Repeat 10 times, holding for three seconds with each repetition.
Tongue up exercise:
This exercise is so easy and discrete, you can do it in public. Simply open and close your jaw slowly, while pressing your tongue against the roof of your mouth. If you feel pain or notice significant popping during this or any other exercise, stop immediately and schedule an appointment with a dental professional who has strong experience treating temporomandibular joint pain.
Relaxed jaw exercise:
Press your tongue gently against the top of your mouth just behind your upper front teeth. Then, let your teeth fall apart while relaxing the muscles in your jaw.
Sometimes TMJ can cause tinnitus symptoms and pain near the upper temple area. Goldfish exercises can sometimes provide TMJ Ear Pain Relief be helpful for people with these symptoms. Start by placing the tongue firmly against the roof of your mouth. Then, press one middle finger in front of your ear. Next, place the other middle finger or an index finger on your chin. Lower your jaw about halfway and then close your mouth, using your fingers to create mild resistance. Perform this exercise no more than six times in one set, and do only one set six times daily.
Although these exercises can help strengthen your jaw joint and reduce TMJ symptoms, you may notice that you feel a bit sore when you first get started. Over time, however, you should experience less and less discomfort.
What Causes TMD?
It’s not always possible to determine why someone develops TMJ disorder. Many people owe their symptoms to a combination of factors, including arthritis, genetics, jaw injuries, habitual teeth grinding or clenching. Whatever the cause, TMD can result in a range of unpleasant symptoms, including jaw pain and/or tenderness, facial pain, difficulty chewing, popping in the jaw, range of motion problems and tinnitus.
According to experts, you can reduce the risk and severity of TMD symptoms by avoiding certain problematic behaviors, including biting your fingernails, chewing your lower lip and biting with your front teeth. You should also keep your upper and lower teeth apart when at rest.
What Are the Best TMD Treatment Options?
In some cases, TMD symptoms go away over time without any type of treatment. If your symptoms persist, however, consider seeking an evaluation from a dental professional, who can recommend an appropriate treatment plan.
According to the Mayo Clinic, occlusal appliances (mouth guards) can be beneficial for people who suffer from TMD. That said, treatments can vary from physical therapy and massage to injections, minimally invasive procedures and serious open-joint surgery.
If TMJ exercises aren’t enough to reduce your symptoms, a qualified dental professional can help you create an effective treatment plan based on your individual situation.