Exercises for TMJ Sufferers
TMJ can be unbearable to live with. Not only does it cause your jaw to click and pop, the painful disorder is also commonly associated with chronic headaches and migraines, shoulder and neck pain, and overall pain in the face and jaw area. For some people who suffer from TMJ and jaw problems, the pain is so intense it can keep them awake for hours at night, which generally makes getting through the next day more difficult. This cycle can lead to depression and sometimes even suicidal thoughts.
Exercises for TMJ are basically done to strengthen the jaw. Since the muscles around the joint are strained, the joints are weak and sometimes the nerves around the jawbone and lower facial area can be affected.
The first exercise helps with alignment of your jaw and is done while standing in front of a mirror. With your tongue resting at the top of your mouth behind your front teeth, open your mouth slowly. Watch to see if your teeth move sideways. If there are any movements, open your mouth as wide as you can without straining, close it, and look for the same lateral movements. Practicing this allows you to have control over both sides of your jaw.
Exercise number two works on joint strength. Take the palm of your hand and gently push on one side of your jaw. Use your jaw to push back against your hand to check the alignment of your teeth. Start slowly with small amounts of pressure, gradually working your way to more pressure. The goal is to increase the joint’s strength and control.
Another exercise to improve joint strength is to use your fingers to push down on your bottom teeth while pushing up with your jaw. You can use both hands to help strengthen the vertical muscles around the temporomandibular joint or TMJ, which gives this condition its name.
To relax your jawbone, or mandible, ball your hand into a fist and put it under your chin. Gently try to open your jaw while balancing the weight of your fist, all the while trying not to let your jaw click or pop. Hold it for ten seconds, release, and then repeat ten times.
To work on your jaw’s alignment, you can take one finger from each hand and press against your jaw on the left and right side. Making sure the pressure is even on both sides, open your jaw slowly without letting it click. If it makes a noise, relax and start over, opening your mouth even more slowly this time.
Once you’ve exercised your jaw and it is relaxed and aligned, you can hold your chin between your thumb and pointer finger and carefully shake your chin back and forth. This lets your jaw continue to relax and line up into place.
If any of these exercises cause more pain than relief, cease trying them immediately. The best thing you can do is consult with your physician about the right exercises for TMJ. With enough practice, your jaw will eventually memorize its natural position.